By James BrabenecJune 20, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla., June 20, 2019 -- For a young woman who grew up tinkering with vehicles, Pvt. Kiara Foster, 20, found a good job as an 88M Motor Transport Operator for the 696th Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery. But, she doesn't limit her service to the driver's seat, instead staying late to help the battalion's mechanics perform their maintenance tasks.
Recently she extended this service attitude as a first responder to a two-car accident while off duty. While driving on a highway near Weatherford, Okla., June 4, around 8:30 a.m., Foster came upon the two mangled vehicles seemingly interlocked. She said she heard a little voice inside her telling her to go make sure everyone was all right.
"I could see there were people who needed help and I was determined to do as much as I could," said Foster, ready to make use of skills she learned in a Combat Lifesaver course.
Approaching the first vehicle, she noticed a man who had been ejected out of one of the vehicles and saw he was having a hard time breathing.
"He was lying on his stomach so my first instinct was to try to get him into the recovery position so it would be easier for him to breathe," she said.
But as she talked to the man, he began to complain of pain in his upper back and lower leg. Rather than move him and risk further injury, she stayed and talked with him to help keep him calm. When the emergency medical technicians arrived she told them what she knew. As the EMT personnel stabilized the man and prepared him for airlift, Foster stayed close and heard the man asking about his dad. So, she asked the injured man where his father was and learned he was riding in the back seat of their vehicle.
Being the smallest person at the accident, Foster was able to get close to the father whose body was pinned in the vehicle. She said the second vehicle was a pickup truck that had plowed into the passenger side of the first vehicle causing extensive damage. Unable to free the man, Foster could see the man's safety belt was causing him pain and cut it away. She then laid him on her lap, and began to pray for the man. Though in pain and distress, she said the man joined her in that prayer.
As they awaited emergency personnel to cut away debris and free the man, Foster said it was only a couple minutes and she felt him exhale one last time and go still dying at the scene. She then alerted the EMT team and was asked to assist accident victims in the other vehicle. One was airlifted out, and the other two went to a nearby hospital for follow-up care.
Foster said she's been a little troubled by having a man die in her arms, but after duty hours she has sat and reflected on all that happened and allowed herself to heal from the trauma. She also credited her friends and co-workers for listening to her.
"We knew it was a tough situation and offered to help Pvt. Foster find agencies to talk to on post, but she said she hasn't needed that yet," said her supervisor, Sgt. Maximillian Frederick. "She's very resilient. She's very proactive and volunteers for everything."
Foster said she initially told Frederick about the accident and word got around.
I've had people walk up to me and ask questions about it, and I'll tell them what happened and how it kind of reflects back on your life and everyday things you do now."
"I'm happy I had the skills to help out," she said.
Instead, Foster applies herself to various volunteer efforts she's involved in. With her hometown, Earlsboro, Okla., an easy two-hour drive away, she stays connected there through her volunteer spirit.
"I was really big into 4-H before I joined the military," she said. Really big means caring for and showing sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs, along with public speaking. Foster also performed a variety of community service projects and mentors young 4-H members in their activities.
Foster said growing up in a small town, "you help out people when you can."
One connection helped shape the direction she would choose in her life after high school, as she said she helped her best friend's dad at his diesel shop.
"He would go with his dad every weekend at 5 a.m. and it sounded fun," said Foster. "So, I did it one weekend and just fell in love with it."
She said she always wanted to serve in the military and which road to take came down to a choice between the Army and the Navy. Fortunately, she has two uncles who offered her insight into their Army and Navy careers.
"I decided the Army sounded more for me," she said.
So, she no longer drives her Dodgle Ram 1500 at work. Instead as an 88-Mike, she operates a range of work vehicles to include the 5-ton, the crane operated truck, the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle, and the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck.
Frederick said their unit was recently behind in vehicle maintenance so the commander directed maintenance Soldiers to work two shifts to get caught up. True to her nature, Foster volunteered to help out and work overnight. He said it isn't something many drivers do other than perform road tests to verify their vehicles are back running smoothly.
Foster said in most instances drivers don't talk with maintainers after operating a vehicle, but "I'm friends with the mechanics, so I'll go and help them to put different parts on the trucks."
This assistance has included changing the oil and replacing filters and wipers.
Looking to her future, Foster said, "I want to make it a career and retire as a first sergeant." But, she's also looking beyond military service and plans to begin school soon with the intent to study agriculture communication.
While she said operating military vehicles is a big height change from her pickup truck, should the Army allow operators to drive their work trucks home, this ready-to-assist Soldier probably has the right mindset: "I would if I could."