By Mr. Karl Weisel (IMCOM), U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs OfficeJuly 5, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany (June 13, 2011) -- When Sgt. John McCaughrean and two of his fellow 24th Military Intelligence Battalion Soldiers stopped on the Autobahn to render assistance at a crash site March 13, the last thing they were thinking about was recognition for their actions.
McCaughrean, who joined fellow host nation military members and law enforcement officers at a Hessentag ceremony in Oberursel June 13, was honored with the Hessen Medal for Civil Courage by Hessen Minister President Volker Bouffier. During the ceremony honoring people in Hessen for contributions such as lifesaving actions and other quality-of-life improvement efforts, McCaughrean, Spc. Ryan Vaughn and Warrant Officer 1 Mark Krueger were cited for helping apprehend two men who most likely caused the accident and fled the scene on foot.
“We want to express with this recognition our thanks, our appreciation and our respect,” said Bouffier, acknowledging that often people will look on in the event of an accident or suicide attempt but refuse to get involved.
“You are role models,” said the minister president to the “citizens in uniform,” showing “exceptional courage and dedication.”
McCaughrean, the only one of the three Americans able to attend the ceremony, said it was “an honor and a privilege” to be recognized by the host nation. “I just wish the other guys were here too so that the spotlight wouldn’t only be on me.
“I had a team of three, that’s why I was able to take care of the objective,” said McCaughrean, describing his reactions to the crash scene on Autobahn 3 near the Seligenstadt exit. As the three Soldiers were making their way to Hohenfels on a mission they “noticed debris everywhere,” a flipped over Volkswagon and a Mercedes in the middle of the Autobahn blocking traffic. “I ordered Spc. Vaughn to the Mercedes while I ran to assist the silver VW.”
After being told that the situation was under control at the VW by a doctor who had also stopped, McCaughrean said he joined Vaughn at the Mercedes. “The 18-year-old driver had blood running down his face and you could smell alcohol coming off of them.”
As Krueger went to help direct traffic and Vaughn looked after the older passenger, McCaughrean went back to their van to get his emergency medical gear (both Vaughn and McCaughrean are Combat Lifesaver Course certified). That’s when Vaughn signaled to McCaughrean that the two men had run off across the Autobahn and into the adjacent forest.
After yelling for the men to stop in both German and English and chasing them “the distance of a football field,” the Soldiers caught up to the men when the older of the two had to rest.
“The younger brother said they were trying to get to a hospital,” said McCaughrean, adding that the younger of two appeared to want to fight.
As Vaughn remained behind with the men after assuring McCaughrean that with his martial arts training he was capable of handling the situation, McCaughrean returned to the accident scene where German Polizei and emergency services had arrived on the scene. Two German police officers accompanied him and eventually arrested the driver of the car.
After briefing those on the scene about what had occurred in the nearly two-and-a-half hours of the incident (“to me if felt like a half hour,” said McCaughrean), the three Soldiers continued on to Hohenfels.
“Being an NCO … and being CLS certified I believed we were capable of completing the task " assisting in any way possible,” said McCaughrean, who served two deployments in Iraq before joining his current unit in Wiesbaden and Darmstadt. “You do training so much and eventually the training just kicks in.”
McCaughrean, a Somerdale, N.J., native, also credited his daily physical training with helping him catch up to the men. “Thank God I do PT every morning. … The short sprints got me ready for it.”
Following the ceremony in Oberursel, several people approached the Soldier to express their gratitude for his and his fellow Soldiers’ actions. One elderly German couple described witnessing the car crash and saying they assumed no one survived the accident. They explained that they wanted to come to Hessentag for the ceremony and to thank the Soldiers personally after seeing a report about the accident on Germany television.