Face of Defense: Medic Says ‘Simple Stuff’ Saved Soldier’s Life
By Sgt. Timothy Dinneen, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, March 6, 2008 An 82nd Airborne Division medic who hospital officials here credit with saving a French soldier’s life in November says the treatment he provided was just “simple stuff.” But there was a lot more to it than stopping bleeding and pushing fluids.
As a convoy of more than 20 vehicles snaked its way through a creek bed in Tag Ab Valley on Nov. 10, small-arms and rocket-propelled-grenade fire interrupted the patrol’s five-day mission of searching for high-value targets in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province.
Army Spc. Nicholas Colgin, a medic with Bravo Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, heard the call for “medic” and responded by running through sporadic enemy fire to a wounded French soldier.
“All of a sudden, we started taking fire, and we would return fire, and then it would stop,” Colgin recalled. “It would go on like this for more than an hour as the sun went down.”
The convoy was pushing through the intermittent ambushes when Colgin said he noticed a French vehicle passing his coalition Humvee from the trail position, moving alongside the lead armored security vehicle.
“They were trying to notify the lead vehicle of an injury; their gunner took a 7.62 (mm) round through the helmet,” Colgin, a Chesterfield, Va., native said. “When the lead vehicle called for a medic, I stopped the Humvee I was driving, hopped out, and the (radio telephone operator) in the back tossed me the aid bag.”
The convoy was still under attack from enemy fire when Colgin ran in the open past five vehicles, reaching the French vehicle and jumping up and down, waving his arms and screaming “I’m a medic!”
“I wasn’t thinking much at all when I left the Humvee; I got caught up in the moment,” Colgin recalled. “I did know I had to move fast to help whoever it was.”
Colgin said the French soldiers didn’t speak English and were surprised at first seeing an American soldier out in front of their door during an ambush, but eventually they let him in.
“I had no idea what his injuries were; he was sprawled out in the back of the vehicle with loose bandages on his head and was unresponsive,” Colgin said. “I positioned him properly and started treating him, and that meant stopping the bleeding.”
Colgin asked if anyone spoke English in the French vehicle. The French soldiers pointed to their unconscious comrade.
“It was crazy, because I’m trying to help the soldier and all I hear is French. The gunner would fire off some rounds, pop down to try and talk to me, and then pop back up and fire more rounds,” Colgin said. “I’m pretty sure this guy was going to die; I knew we had to get him out fast or he wouldn’t make it.”
Colgin said the French vehicle did not have communications with the coalition vehicles, so he stuck his head out one of the gunner’s turrets and began yelling the extent of the wounded soldier’s injuries to the occupants of the lead armored security vehicle.
Colgin ran back to the commander’s Humvee to provide medical evacuation information and a situation report while avoiding the small-arms fire. “I then ran back a second time to the French vehicle and gave him an IV and further assessed his injuries,” he said. “Once I was able to push him with fluids and stop the bleeding, he became responsive.”
Colgin would stay with his patient through the sporadic ambushes, reassuring him he would be make it while firing his weapon through the gunner’s turret. What was normally a 20-minute drive to reach Forward Operating Base Kutschbach took the convoy three hours, Colgin recalled.
The French soldier was diagnosed with a skull fracture and brain swelling, and was evacuated to a higher level of care. Hospital officials who treated the soldier said Colgin’s action’s saved his life.
“Simple stuff saved him, like stopping the bleeding and pushing fluids,” said Colgin. “The reassuring didn’t hurt either.”
There was nothing simple about Colgin’s actions that day.
(Army Sgt. Timothy Dinneen serves with Combined Joint Task Force 82 Public Affairs.)