CAMP SIMBA, Kenya – Going out on patrol is not an uncommon occurrence for Task Force Red Dragon Soldiers stationed at Kenya’s Camp Simba. It’s part of the mission to help protect and provide security for the area around Manda Bay. The patrols help to build relations with residents and deter an ever-present Al-Shabaab threat in the region. For one squad of Red Dragon Soldiers, their patrol happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Red Dragon, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, were conducting an area security patrol May 25. What happened next was something they were not expecting.
“Our route had us headed to a pretty sizable village,” said Staff Sgt. Chandler Potts, a squad leader with B Company. “The brush was pretty thick and it took us quite a while to move through it. We crossed over to the village and began talking with the first local that we came across. Moments later, we heard the sound of screeching tires and crunching metal from behind us.”
Potts turned around to see a large cloud of dust emanating from the tree line where his squad had just come from.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Powers, the Bravo Company patrol leader, quickly moved his Soldiers and established a security perimeter until they could ascertain what had happened. Just moments after the accident, they heard a vehicle horn.
“That sound told me that someone was hurt,” Potts said. “Powers was setting in security, so I took off running towards the vehicle. That’s when I saw the truck on its side.”
As Potts approached the vehicle, he could see a head sticking out through the passenger window of a truck that faced skyward. The individual was holding his neck while another occupant was at the bottom of the truck on the driver’s side; he did not appear conscious. Potts attempted to make verbal contact with the person but received no response.
Potts handed his weapon to Powers and began moving to the opposite side of the vehicle, where he found a third victim, who had been ejected from the vehicle. This person was responsive but dazed.
“I called for Spc. Montiel, our combat lifesaver, to start evaluating him,” Potts said. “I climbed on top of the vehicle with Spc. Nicholas, our attached medic, and pulled the first guy out of the vehicle through the passenger window.”
The team then struggled to find a way to get the unresponsive person out through the passenger window.
“At that point, I took my kit off and climbed down inside the vehicle,” Potts said. “I tried to gain enough leverage to get him out through the passenger window like the other guy, but the cab was too small. So, I decided to try and kick the windshield out. Luckily it came out.”
Powers and team leaders removed what was left of the windshield from the outside and helped Potts get the victim out of the overturned vehicle.
Once freed, the Soldiers were able to evaluate and monitor the stable but unconscious casualty, and they were also able to tend to the two conscious individuals experiencing extreme neck pain.
A crowd of onlookers from the village had gathered to witness the scene, including two Kenya Navy personnel. Powers worked with them to call an ambulance.
While waiting for the ambulance, Potts and Powers moved the casualties away from the wrecked vehicle and across the road.
Once the ambulance arrived, Nicholas did a medical hand-off with the doctor with the ambulance and they loaded the three casualties for transportation to a nearby care facility. The squad then continued their patrol. They entered the village and greeted the residents, many of whom had watched the incident unfold.
“They were all pretty grateful for us helping and invited us to come back to their village anytime,” Potts said. “It was a good experience to be in the right place at the right time and help out some people in need. The whole squad performed their roles really well. Establishing that security cordon was important. It was an awesome thing to be a part of.”