Army Soldierâ€™s Medal
Smoke rose in thick, dark wisps as bricks, wood and stones lay scattered around a darkened crevice. A charred shell that was once a small vehicle lay nearby and an enormous hole exposed the bare insides of the targeted building. Inside, a humvee turret was lying beside the cabinets of what was once a kitchen, evidence of the deadly force of the explosion.
When a suicide vehicle-borne IED detonated 15 meters from the Sabari District Center just before 4 p.m. on March 3, the blast leveled the buildingâ€™s entire southern wall and destroyed a nearby humvee.
â€œWe received the emergency call during a fast-roping exercise,â€ said Pfc. Steve Egovail, Co. F, 5th Battalion 101st Aviation Regt., 101st Combat Aviation Brigade as he recalled the emergency mission his unit responded to Khost province, in early March.
For his heroic actions recovering, treating and evacuating trapped and wounded Soldiers during an emergency personnel recovery mission, Egovail was awarded the Army Soldierâ€™s Medal during a ceremony Sept. 19 at Forward Operating Base Salerno. He was presented the award by Brig. Gen. James McConville, deputy commanding general-support for Combined Joint Task Force-101.
As UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters brought in the rescue effort, Egovail dismounted the helicopter and immediately assisted Spc. Pete Shearer, a Pathfinder Co. medic, with the evacuation of a dead Soldier by helicopter.
The pair then quickly moved to the mangled remains of the first building.
â€œ[It] was hit badly,â€ said Egovail. â€œShearer and I started moving rubble aside and after 20 minutes, we heard someone calling out to us.â€
Trapped beneath the rubble, a Soldier called out from a small space created by several collapsed ceiling beams. The beams had created a pocket, protecting him from falling debris, but making medical aid nearly impossible. Egovail and Shearer began trying to uncover the man by pulling sandbags, plywood, bricks and roof tiles off the pile of rubble covering the beams.
The damaged roof and piles of debris were a constant danger to Shearer and Egovail putting them at risk of becoming trapped as well. Finally, after clearing a small entry, they began to assess the trapped Soldierâ€™s medical condition.
â€œWe realized that a pillar was crushing one of his legs,â€ said Egovail. â€œWe ended up using several car-jacks to lift the pillar off the guyâ€™s leg.â€
Deciding that he could fit through the crawl space, Egovail slid into it and aided Shearer in administering oxygen to the Soldier with a face mask. Egovail remained buried in the small space with the Soldier as rescue forces continued to remove the debris blocking them in.
The rescue forces had to work slowly and carefully, removing too much of the rubble would have caused the roof and the weight of the building to collapse, possibly killing Egovail and the trapped Soldier.
After two hours and two tanks of oxygen, enough debris was cleared for Egovail and the other rescuers to free the trapped Soldier. After learning from the rescued Soldier that there was another person near him when the explosion occurred, Egovail immediately began looking for the third person still trapped in the debris.
The FOB Salerno Fire and Rescue team began assisting the Soldiers by removing major debris with a front end loader. Finally rescuers uncovered the third man. He was immediately pronounced dead.
The Soldiers and Fire and Rescue team spent many hours trying to secure and stabilize the collapsing building and shifting roof they were working underneath to continue to recover, treat and evacuate any additional casualties.
â€œOur mission is need and emergency, if everything in every mission went exactly as planned, then we would have no mission,â€ said Capt. Brian McCray, Pathfinder Co.commander. â€œThe guys on that mission did exactly what they should do, thatâ€™s how they were trained and thatâ€™s how they acted.â€
McCray recommended Egovail for the Army Soldierâ€™s Medal a week after the incident, the award was approved Sept.18.
â€œI have never felt so proud to be in the Army as I did at that moment,â€ said Egovail, as he spoke about that mission. â€œThe training, the amount of time put in and all the hard things were well worth it to be able to go out and help like that.â€
Written by Pfc. Christina Sinders CTF Currahee Public Affairs