Army Medic Shifted into “Hero Mode” Following Amtrak Train Derailment


By Debbie Gregory.

When an Amtrak train derailed in Dupont, Washington on December 18th, Second Lt. Robert McCoy hit the brakes on his pickup truck just in time to avoid impact.

The 23-year-old Army officer from Oklahoma had only been at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for weeks, and was heading home when the tragedy occurred.

Assigned to the 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, McCoy knew he needed to help.

“I remembered I had a tourniquet and a CPR mask in my truck and I grabbed those and I took off toward the accident.”

McCoy carried many of the ejected passengers out of the road to safety and then turned his attention to the people trapped inside the dangling train car.

One elderly woman was partially dangling outside the train car.

“She was kind at the end here, dangling out, but another downed rail car was right here,” McCoy said. “Her daughter kind of pulled her out backwards and I just reached under her and picked her up and put her down on some form of safe structure.”

McCoy also assisted a woman with a severely broken leg.

McCoy’s heroics inspired praise from his platoon sergeant, Hunter Williams.

Williams posted the following on his Facebook page:

“By now, many of you are aware that an Amtrak train derailed in DuPont (the city I live in), just outside the gate of Joint Base Lewis Mcchord. What you don’t know, yet anyway, is that my incoming Platoon Leader was the first bystander on scene… Without thinking twice, he immediately began pulling injured civilians out of the vehicles and the train itself…This young 2LT isn’t an experienced leader in the Army. He didn’t graduate from West Point and hasn’t been to combat. He is literally as green as they come and is fresh out of the Basic Officer Leader Course. Hell, he hasn’t even finished in-processing JBLM and our battalion yet. However, when adversity hit… he acted. THIS is the type of leader we need in the Army. These are the men (and women) you want leading your sons and daughters into combat. The ones whose fight instinct overcomes their flight instinct, regardless of the situation, and they act to ensure that people live…  he’s told me over and over how excited he is for me to be his first Platoon Sergeant. What he doesn’t know though, is how proud I am for him to be my Platoon Leader. Great job, sir.”

The crash claimed the lives of three people and wounded at least 100 others.

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The Power of a Mantra-“Keep Breathing”


By Debbie Gregory.

An Army Ranger from Joint Base Lewis-McChord is recovering at Walter Reed Military Medical Center after being shot four times during a firefight in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Oliver Campbell had three bullets go through and through, but one bullet lodged close to his heart after the attack. While he awaited a medical evacuation after the attack, Campbell repeated to himself a phrase he’d just heard watching Leonardo DiCaprio’s new survivalist flick: “keep breathing.”

The recurring line from DiCaprio’s The Revenant kept Campbell calm until he lost consciousness.

His lung nearly collapsed and his heart stopped on one of his medical flights. He also suffered shrapnel injuries near his eyes.

Campbell and his Ranger team were attacked with small arms and sort of explosive exploded, causing shrapnel to splinter in a compound they visited.

Campbell joined the Army immediately after graduating from high school in Southern California.

The 22 year old plotted a course that would make him an Army Airborne Ranger. He joined his battalion a little more than two years ago, and has deployed to Afghanistan several times.

In a letter to friends and family, Campbell thanked his teammates for keeping him alive after the attack and the flight surgeons and nurses who tended to him.

He also thanked actor Leonardo DiCaprio, whose performance in the survivalist movie “The Revenant” helped motivate him.

“Believe it or not, when I was laying there all jacked up, the movie ‘The Revenant’ came to mind,” he wrote. “All I could think of was that line, ‘Keep breathing.’ ”

The Revenant is inspired by the experiences of frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass in Montana and South Dakota. While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, Glass sustains injuries from a brutal bear attack. When his hunting team leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back home to his beloved family.

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Military Connection: Guilty Verdict in Deadly Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stabbing

hillBy Debbie Gregory.

The courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord was filled with 20 year-old Spc. Tevin Geike’s family, friends, and soldiers from his old unit, the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. Twenty-four year-old Pvt. Jeremiah Hill was also present. Hill was found guilty of murder in the death of Geike.

Geike’s family and Hill’s loved ones watched intently as a six-officer jury sentenced the former Stryker soldier with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division to 45 years in prison. Hill may be eligible for parole in less than nine years, with credit for time served.

Hill was found guilty of murder without premeditation, which is what saved him from serving life in prison. The jury also found Hill not guilty of obstructing an investigation and involuntary manslaughter.

Geike and Hill encountered one another in the early hours on October 5, 2013. According to the police, the altercation began when someone in the car Hill was in, shouted a racial comment toward Geike and the other white soldiers he was with. Authorities said the soldiers shouted something back, and a group of five black men from the car stopped and surrounded the soldiers.

Hill testified that he stabbed Geike while trying to defend himself from a blade in Geike’s hand, something the Army prosecutors found incredulous.

“Everything (Hill) told you with few exceptions was a lie,” Capt. Patrick Sandys, the Army prosecutor, said.

Sandys argued that Hill stalked Geike from the back, plunged a knife in the younger man’s upper left chest, and injured his own hand when his thumb slipped on the blade. This claim countered Hill’s explanation that Geike held a blade that slashed Hill’s right hand before Hill stabbed Geike with his left hand.

Defense attorney Capt. Austin Fenwick maintained that Hill’s story was the most accurate description of what happened in the moments leading up to Geike’s death.

Fenwick cast the six witnesses who testified this week as misleading. He charged that Geike’s buddies wanted to honor their friend while the soldiers who were with Hill that night gave the jury self-serving statements.

The Lakewood police recovered three knives from the scene. One was buckled into the victim’s belt. No other witness reported seeing Geike carrying a knife in his hand when Hill approached him.

In a few words to Geike’s family, Hill stood at the defendant’s table and took responsibility for the other soldier’s death.

“You’re not responsible. I am. I’m sorry about the death,” Hill said. “I killed him. There’s nothing to do to take it back.”

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Military Connection: Guilty Verdict in Deadly Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stabbing