USO Honors Military Heroes
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2001 The United Service Organizations honored six military heroes at its 60th anniversary gala here Feb. 4.
"These are true American heroes, the best our nation has," USO President John Tilelli told the audience of about 800. "They ask so little and give so much to simply serve America -- to serve us."
Five USO Service Members of the Year hold their awards at the USO's 60th Anniversary Gala in Washington, D.C. Honored at the Feb. 4, 2001, ceremony were (from left) Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd class Noel G. Hutton, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Charles L. Fouch III, Navy Petty Officer 1st class Kenneth Tuliau, Marine Corps Sgt. David A. Oswell and Army Staff Sgt. Albert F. Dimitro Jr. Photo by Linda D. Kozaryn.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, top DoD officials and several of the services' senior enlisted members were among the guests as Tilelli presented the USO Freedom Award to a crewmember of the destroyer USS Cole and named the USO Service Members of the Year.
Navy Chief Petty Officer Clifford A. "Doc" Moser, a corpsman, received the USO Freedom Award for his actions following the terrorist attack on the Cole Oct. 12, 2000. Discovering that a large number of crewmembers had been injured, Moser took charge of examining the most seriously injured and administering first aid. His quick, heroic action has been credited with saving many lives.
Staff Sgt. Albert F. Dimitro Jr. of Fort Chaffee, Ark., was named USO Soldier of the Year. Dimitro, a search and rescue operator and rescue diver, recently retrieved an important piece of military equipment lost in the Arkansas River.
In 1999, Dimitro was credited with saving the life of a fellow soldier. While practicing a controlled deep-water emergency ascent, the soldier suffered a nitrogen gas- induced embolism, a stroke-like condition. Dimitro reached the soldier seconds after he surfaced, administered oxygen and restored his breathing. For his life-saving actions, the Army awarded Dimitro an Army Commendation Medal.
Petty Officer 1st class Kenneth Tuliau, an electrician's mate currently assigned to the USS Champlain, was named USO Sailor of the Year. He is the recipient of five Navy achievement medals.
During a deployment to the Arabian Gulf, he was the boarding engineer on an Iraqi motor vessel suspected of violating the U.N. oil embargo. Prior to boarding by the U.S. Navy officials, the Iraqi crew sabotaged the engineering plant, causing the craft to drift back toward Iraqi territorial waters. Tuliau made the repairs necessary to regain propulsion and avoid confrontation while ensuring the vessel remained in U.S. control.
Tech. Sgt. Charles L. Fouch III was named USO Airman of the Year. In May 2000, while stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Fouch was awakened by a blazing fire that rapidly engulfed his apartment building. He evacuated his family and re-entered his apartment to alert emergency services and neighbors.
The left side of the building exploded and Fouch heard a woman screaming from the second floor. While trying to reach her, he was overcome twice by smoke and fumes. Another section of the building then exploded, completely surrounding the woman with flames and debris. Without regard for himself, Fouch ran into the inferno and pulled her from the fire. The Air Force awarded Fouch the Air Force Airman's Medal for his courageous action.
Sgt. David A. Oswell of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., is USO Marine of the Year. A 12-year veteran, Oswell has served in Okinawa, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait during Desert Storm, Bangladesh, Somalia and Hungary.
In 1995, when a group of Somalis tried to interfere with U.N. forces preparing to withdraw from Mogadishu, Somalia, Oswell fired warning shots and covering fire that enabled the withdrawal of troops and equipment without incident.
In 1997, while stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oswell served as a military policeman. Receiving a call for help from a fellow military policeman under attack by an escaped prisoner on a civilian bus full of passengers, Oswell boarded the bus and wrestled down the prisoner.
The USO named Petty Officer 3rd class Noel G. Hutton, an aviation survival technician at Sitka Air Station, Alaska, as USO Coast Guardsman of the Year. In 1999, Hutton was a member of a helicopter crew that rescued three survivors from a 52-foot fishing vessel that had sunk in a winter storm 160 miles northwest of Alaska.
After flying through a heavy snowstorm, the helicopter crew found the three survivors clinging together, struggling to remain afloat in 40-foot seas. The winds were at 40 knots with 65-knot gusts filling the air with freezing spray. Severe turbulence made it almost impossible to control the aircraft.
Hutton, assisted by the flight mechanic, repeatedly attempted to deliver the rescue basket to the survivors. After an exhausting struggle, one survivor was hoisted to safety. A second survivor climbed into the basket and a third clung to the side, refusing to let go. Hutton knew two people could overload the hoist, but he had no choice.
At great personal risk, hanging out of an almost out-of- control aircraft, Hutton and the flight mechanic steadied the basket and managed to bring it into the cabin without dislodging the clinging survivor. The Coast Guard awarded Hutton the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic efforts.