Soldier Combat Skills

Warrior ethos: Paratrooper saves gunner from burning vehicle

Two acts of bravery saved the life of a Soldier, whom others said, most definitely would have died had it not been for a heroic action.

On May 17, 2009, in the Rusafa district of Baghdad, 1st Lt. Luis Reyes twice entered a burning vehicle to rescue his injured gunner, Spc. Robert Mayes. The two men were assigned to the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

Not only was their humvee hit by an improvised explosive device, but the vehicle began to burn after the ammunition stored between its rear seats exploded following an explosively formed projectile struck it just a few meters from the first attack, said Col. David Buckingham, squadron commander of the 73rd Cav. Regt.

Buckingham gave an account of the events Friday at the pinning of the Bronze Star with Valor ceremony for Reyes, held at 11 a.m., in the Hall of Heroes.

“There is no question that Lieutenant Reyes’ valor in entering the burning vehicle, then reentering the vehicle after the explosion of the ammunition, saved Specialist Mayes’ life,” said Buckingham.
Mayes’ left leg had been badly injured by the EFP. The exploding ammunition burned Reyes’ face, but Mayes would not have made it out of that burning vehicle had it not been for Reyes valorous conduct.

“He’s my lifeline. He saved my life,” Mayes said after watching Reyes get pinned at the ceremony. “He did his job. He did what he was supposed to do and showed the leadership that he was trained to do.”

It is leadership that also helped the Troop A, 5th Sqdn., 73rd Cav. Regt. receive the Draper Armor Leadership Award at the same ceremony Friday.

The Draper Award, according to its Web site, is given annually to recognize effective leadership in armor and cavalry units. Troop A is the 82nd Airborne Divisions’ 2009 winner.

“That kind of leadership is not uncommon in the 82nd Airborne Division. It is uncommon in the private sector though,” said XVIII Abn. Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, in recognizing the effectiveness of the 73rd Cav.

Helmick said that Reyes’ instincts not to leave a fallen comrade behind took over and compelled him to rescue his brother in arms from a burning vehicle.

“I knew he was hurt and couldn’t get out. Priority was to get that man out of that situation,” said Reyes, who joined the Army two and a half years ago.

A Troop leads the way in tough situations and are trained to the Army standard, said Helmick.
“A disciplined outfit does things right all the time, not just if your leaders are there looking,” he said.

A paratrooper makes a commitment to another paratrooper, and unlike a promise that can be broken, the paratrooper honors that commitment, said Helmick.

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