U.S. soldiers rescue Polish citizens
WESOLA, Poland - Four U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) personnel serving in Poland for Exercise Anakonda 16, rescued two Polish citizens involved in a vehicle rollover accident in Wesola, Poland Thursday evening.
Daniel Hawkins of Fresno, Calif., Sgt. Arturo Yanez, 29, of Houston, Spc. Deondre Butler, 22, of Fredericksburg, Va., and Spc. Malcolm Howard, 24, of Petersburg, Va., were on their way to dinner when they witnessed a vehicle lose control, leave the roadway and flip several times before coming to a stop upside down.
After dialing emergency, the USAREUR personnel assisted the driver out of the vehicle before trying to help the unconscious passenger. The Americans first had to prevent the gathering crowd from hastily removing the passenger from the wrecked vehicle.
"It is just human nature trying to help the guy out," said Howard, an information technology specialist. "Everyone was trying to move him, when he was laying on the ground and everyone was crowding him."
"In pre-deployment training you get a course, for when you crash [a vehicle]," said Yanez, an aviation operations specialist. "You could tell the guy had issues in his back, and when people started trying to move him, we were able to say 'no, don't move him'."
Once the passenger regained consciousness, the American Soldiers were able to safely remove him from the vehicle. While the Soldiers were rendering aid, they recognized he was in an extreme state of shock so three of the Soldiers removed their uniform blouses to cover the injured passenger in an attempt to keep him warm. Butler and Howard kept both victims talking and engaged while maintaining a safe distance between the victims and the onlookers.
Strong gas fumes began emanating from the wrecked vehicle. With the assistance of a Polish airman who also stopped to provide assistance, two of the U.S. Soldiers attempted to cut the vehicle's power.
"I crawled in the car to try to turn the keys off before anything escalated," Butler said. "I didn't even think about it...just trying to prevent anything else from happening, especially with all the bystanders standing around so close. There could have been more people affected."
Paramedics and police arrived on scene and the Soldiers assisted with carrying the victims and loading them into the ambulance.
"Everyone fell in line, everyone had their own job, and we were a team," said Daniel Hawkins, a civilian with U.S. Army Europe and former U.S. Army infantryman.
"Muscle memory kind of took over. I was very proud of the Soldiers," Hawkins said. "In that situation, you don't want to leave a person behind. In that moment that person became our comrade, our teammate."
All four U.S. personnel are part of the U.S. contingent for the multinational military exercise Anakonda 16 currently underway in locations across Poland.
A Polish led, joint multinational exercise, Anakonda tests the ability, readiness and interoperability of the Polish Armed Forces with Allies and partners, while conducting a joint defensive operation on a large scale. According to exercise organizers, there are more than 30,000 participants from 24 partner and Allied countries taking part in Anakonda 2016.