CAMP RED CLOUD, Republic of Korea -- Five Warrior Division Soldiers were formally recognized for saving the life of a North Korean defector Nov. 13 by the Honorable Marc Knapper, charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy-Korea, and Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, U.S. Forces-Korea/United Nations Command/ROK-US Combined Forces Command commanding general during a ceremony at the Habib House, the U.S. ambassador's residence in Seoul, Dec. 14.
The quick actions by Soldiers from the Joint Security Area and an aero-medical evacuation crew from 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, performed emergency life-saving procedures, which resulted in saving the life of the defector who was shot five times and was minutes from dying from his injuries.
"What goes unnoticed, in much of the telling of these events, is the hard work involved in building and maintaining the relationships that allowed for such a successful operation," said Knapper. "It is not just our capabilities, our training, our equipment, or our knowledge that provides strength to the Alliance. It is our ability to work together in using these tools that makes the Alliance so strong."
"The North Korean security forces, who fired at the soldier defecting to the South, tried to break his will for freedom," said Brooks. "ROK-U.S. service members with other goodwill broke into the situation and took positive action to rescue the soldier."
Thirteen individuals were honored Thursday for their contributions to the life-saving effort. Among them, the 'Dust Off' medevac crew, which included Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Tirro, Sgt. 1st Class Gopal Singh, Spc. Carroll Moore, and Pfc. Karina Lopez. The fifth crew member, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nathan Gumm, who piloted the rescue transport, had already transitioned from Korea at the time of the ceremony; however his recognition will be forwarded to his next duty station.
According to reports, the JSA trauma team that originally treated the defector contacted the MEDEVAC crew, based out of Camp Casey, 15 minutes by air from the DMZ. The flight crew arrived on-site where the defector was loaded onto their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and immediately began performing first aid, and continued during the 80-kilometer transport to Ajou Hospital, Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.
Once they arrived at the hospital the flight crew then carefully transported the defector to the trauma team where surgeons began performing more extensive medical treatment, which continued for several days.
The defector is currently in stable condition and continues to recover from his injuries.
"ROK-U.S. service members really made a big difference," said Brooks. "Years of training and cooperation between our two countries made this possible."
"You and your actions represent what the alliance is truly about," said Knapper to the honorees. "I am honored to recognize your contributions and to celebrate with you today."