By Sgt. Melissa StewartNovember 29, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Soldiers deploy, defend and protect their homes, Families and people they have never met. Eight 3rd Brigade Combat Team Soldiers proved that on Oct. 31 when they helped several people in the Rhicard Hills neighborhood.
The Soldiers, who were all from G Company, 710th Brigade Support Battalion, help rescue residents and pets from a burning building in the Fort Drum neighborhood while they were conducting training last month.
Staff Sgt. Eduardo Rodriguez, Spc. Eric Anderson, Spc. Ronrico Philips, Spc. Chris Schneider, Spc. Khiry White, Pfc. Dijion McEachen, Pvt. Jonathan Mendoza and Pvt. Michael Parham without question, risked their lives to save strangers.
What started off as a day of training turned into a day of rescuing several Fort Drum residents in imminent danger.
The Soldiers were at the Rhicard Hills Community Center on Halloween for training when the fire started.
As they prepared to leave the neighborhood and return to work, the Soldiers noticed a house was on fire.
"I noticed there was a little smoke on the balcony of the apartment, and I looked again and it started flaring up," said Anderson, a truck driver. "I informed Spc. White and Spc. Philips about the incident, and we began to proceed over there."
White remembered seeing Anderson frantically try to get his attention.
"Spc. Anderson was sitting right across from me in his car … and he was trying to get my attention and waving his hand at me. I look up out of my car and he was like, 'Hey, (Spc. White), the house is on fire,'" said White, who also is a truck driver.
Without hesitation, the eight Soldiers began to move into the building to provide any possible assistance.
When they realized that what seemed to be just a bit of smoke was rapidly escalating to a full-fledged fire, they quickly took charge of the situation.
"I walked over there and I started to see a little smoke and a little flame," White said. "There was a lawn maintenance guy; he was leaf blowing and he was looking at it too. I started to walk a little faster over there and (Spc.) Anderson was behind me and Spc. Philips started coming with me and we told (the man) to call 911."
Although they knew the inherent risks of running inside a burning building, the Soldiers knew they had to do something.
"I saw something and I reacted to it," White said with a shrug.
The Soldiers ran into the building and up to the top apartment that was on fire.
"At that time, I figured they could probably put that out themselves; if someone was inside, they could use their fire extinguisher," White said.
After no answer at the first door, they moved on to the other apartments and began knocking on all the doors to ensure everyone had evacuated the complex.
"So I go next door, and I bang on that door and there was a lady with a baby inside," White said. "She was standing there and I told her what happened, so she went to go get her baby and I helped her downstairs."
Each of the Soldiers continued to clear the building while the fire grew rapidly. After several trips inside, they had successfully helped all residents and pets out of the building before the fire department arrived.