SANGIN TUFAAN, Afghanistan --
During a routine key leader engagement, Jan. 22, in Sangin Tufaan, Afghanistan, Marines with Afghan National Civil Order Police Mentorship Team Two, with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, found themselves in a situation that was anything but routine.
During the engagement, an over-watch post constructed out of sandbags on top of a three story hardened structure collapsed into itself due to recent inclement weather. When the over-watch post collapsed, there were two ANCOP members inside who were buried and trapped under the rubble.
Upon hearing the commotion from the wreck, some of the Marines with PET-II immediately ran to investigate.
“I was in one of the vehicles that were providing security when it all started,” said Cpl. William Weeks, team leader, PMT-II, from Pensacola, Fla. “I ran to the roof when I heard all the noise. I saw the post had collapsed through two or three stories. I ran down the stairs to try and help.”
While Weeks was running down to help he found there was razor-sharp concertina wire and fallen lockers blocking his path.
“We just started moving all the stuff out of the way, the c-wires, lockers, sandbags, everything,” he continued. “I didn’t know at the time if there were people there. I just started trying to clear everything out.”
More Marines with PMT-II quickly rushed to the aid of the two ANCOP policemen trapped under all the rubble. At the same time, there were dozens of other ANCOP observing from the roof. The weight of the ANCOP on the rooftop created a dangerous situation since the structure had weakened from the collapse.
Gunnery Sgt. James Fuentes, staff noncommissioned officer in charge, PMT-II, from East Chicago, Ind., instructed the Marines to temporarily stop with the search and rescue until the ANCOP was cleared from the roof.
Immediately after the last ANCOP member was able to get off the roof, the Marines continued the search and rescue to get the wounded out of the rubble. Fuentes then directed Weeks to begin the “9-line” casualty evacuation process in order to be ready for when they pulled the casualties out of the debris.
“I ran out to grab litters from the vehicles and then when I came back I started the 9-line right away,” added Weeks.
When Weeks ran to the vehicles he told some of the other Marines about what had happened and without delay, they ran to assist.
“I was in one of the trucks when I saw one of the Marines running toward us,” said Cpl. Travis Sears, team leader, PMT-II, from Pittsburg. “Cpl. Weeks was telling us what had just happened and I ran towards the building with one of the stretchers.”
According to Weeks, they found the first casualty within four minutes of the incident. The Marines and a Navy corpsman instantly began to check his vitals to see how he was doing. “I could tell he was in pretty bad shape just by looking at him. We knew he needed medical attention,” said Cpl. Terry Still, team member, PMT-II, from Debary, Fla. “I was in a separate part of the building when it collapsed. We ran in to see what happened and I saw Gunny (Fuentes) yelling into the rubble to see if anyone was trapped. We just started pulling the sandbags off. Once we found out there were two ANCOP trapped in there, all I thought about was getting the bags off.”
The first injured person was pulled from the rubble and was immediately taken to a casualty collection point. The corpsman, Seaman Jared Smith, from Lebanon, Ind., deemed the casualty stable while the others continued to search for the second victim.
Smith found the second casualty with no vital signs and deemed him expectant.
Both casualties were put in an ambulance and then escorted to Forward Operating Base Jackson for an evaluation by the battalion aid station there. The first casualty was flown to Camp Bastion for further evaluations.
The second casualty was confirmed deceased by the medical officer at FOB Jackson.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my Marines,” Fuentes said. “The Marines gave the notice that something had happened and it was basically autopilot from there. Their training came into play right there. Everything was like clockwork.
“The actions of my Marines saved the first guy,” Fuentes continued. “They worked great together.”
The actions of the Marines with PMT-II saved the life of an ANCOP member when misfortune struck. All the Marines within that unit credit their actions with their training, hard work and many rehearsals.
“You don’t have to do a good deed just by killing a bad guy out here,” said Sgt. Jonathan Purifoy, squad leader, PMT-II, from Greenville, Ala. “We can help our allies in other ways. That’s what we’re here to do, is help them.”
3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6 in 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.