By Mike Cast, Army Developmental Test CommandMarch 15, 2011
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Several APG employees received awards March 3 for their actions after an anti-tank round exploded in the barrel of a Russian-made T-55 during testing
The accidental explosion resulted in the deaths of two ATC test-support employees and serious injury to a third. The lone survivor of the accident also received an award but was not present for last week's ceremony, held at the installation's recreation center.
Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, the commander of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, presented the Secretary of the Army Award for Valor to Kevin Banigan, Christopher Raab, Philip Sibley Jr. and Michael Williams. He presented the Commander's Award for Civilian Service to
Richard Drennan, Harry Poynter and Robert Puckett.
Anthony Hardy received a Memorandum of Appreciation signed by Col. Jeffrey Holt, the Aberdeen Test Center commander, and an award from Jacobs Technology, the company that employed him to support the test mission at ATC.
Douglas Mauzy, who received third degree burns over 70 percent of his body during the incident, had received the Superior Civilian Service Award for his support to ATC's test mission during several years of federal service, and particularly for his service from September 2005 until the accident that caused his injuries.
On May 21, 2009, Mauzy, Mark Henry and Joseph Gray were conducting an accuracy and fire-control test in the tank at the H-Field Firing Range, located at APG South. At about 9:30 a.m., as the crew fired the second Russian-made high-explosive round of the morning, it exploded after traveling about 16 inches down the barrel, according to a subsequent Army safety report.
When the accident occurred, Henry was supporting the test as the tank commander, Gray was the gunner, and Mauzy was driving the tank.
As soon as he heard the explosion, Sibley called the range tower for medical assistance and then ran after the tank into a swampy field containing unexploded test ordnance. He caught up with
the burning tank after it had gone about 200 meters and come to a stop, and then climbed onto the tank to extract Henry and perform CPR on him.
While this was happening, Raab and Williams got into an ammunition truck and drove down the range road next to where the tank had stopped, then ran about 100 meters into the swamp to help Sibley with the rescue efforts.
Banigan drove Hardy to the accident scene to assist in the rescue of Mauzy, who had climbed down from the tank and into the swamp. Hardy assisted him to the road and administered first aid while Banigan went into the swamp to extinguish the tank fire and help with first aid.
Puckett remained at the range tower and helped get medical assistance to H Field. Drennan and Poynter guided emergency medical technicians from the APG Fire Department to the accident site and then assisted in the movement of the injured testers from the swamp to a nearby berm.
Henry was pronounced dead at the scene, and a state medical evacuation helicopter flew Gray and Mauzy to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Gray succumbed to his injuries June 5, 2009,
and Mauzy has undergone extensive surgeries to repair the severe burn damage and medical rehabilitation.
During their remarks at the award ceremony, Dellarocco and Holt praised the selfless service of the ATC test-support employees and the contracted employee who rendered aid on the day of the accident. They both spoke of acts of heroism that day, as well as the many years of selfless service the accident victims and their companions have given to the Army and Soldiers.
Holt described the awardees as "teammates who did everything they could in the face of tragedy to take care of their teammates, and after the catastrophic explosion of that round, gave them every chance they could at life and recovery. They did that at great personal risk. They moved through unexploded ordnance to a vehicle that caught fire soon after it came to a halt."
He also spoke of the ongoing pain that Family members of Henry, Gray and Mauzy endure, which is shared by their teammates at ATC, while noting the presence of Family members at the ceremony.
"It would be completely inappropriate and wrong for us to not do the things to recognize that honor and sacrifice," he said, adding the recognition is well deserved by ATC's "most trusted partners," the emergency services and fire department personnel who responded to the accident.
Dellarocco spoke of the selfless service that civilians employed by the Army provide to Soldiers and the United States, and noted that it can involve an equal measure of sacrifice.
He said he read the report of what happened on the day of the accident "over and over," and that it had a profound impact on him.
"The kind of work that they do here at Aberdeen is part of our national plan," he said of test support personnel at ATC. "They help us provide the very best equipment to the Department of Defense, and there is some risk involved.
"That was evident on that fateful day in May," said Dellarocco. "They put the mission first. They never gave up. They didn't accept defeat. No one turned and ran. They climbed aboard that burning vehicle, risking their own lives, and they didn't leave a comrade behind."
"I couldn't be prouder of each and every one of you," he told the award recipients. "You took care of your teammates, your comrades in arms. No hesitation - you got your buddies out. I salute you - each and every one of you."
Of the accident victims, he said, "Every American fighting person counted on these gentlemen to execute their duties. In this case, they were figuring out what the enemy was going to use against us so we could build better equipment and defeat theirs. Selfless service, that's what it was."
An Army investigation of the accident did not pinpoint the exact cause of the explosion in the tank barrel, but it included various recommendations to enhance the safety of test personnel firing ordnance in support of the test mission.