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Steve Michael Egoavil

U.S. Army / Soldier's Medal

At 5-foot-3, he completed a big assignment: rescuing a fellow soldier after a bomb exploded

Pfc. Steve Egoavil stops his search through the rubble of the bombed mess hall.

Did he hear something? He listens again.

Another soldier hears it, too.

The voice is faint and desperate: “I’m here. I’m here. Help me.”

Beneath the rubble, coated in dust, an unknown soldier is trapped, his foot beneath a toppled rock pillar. A half-hour earlier the pinned soldier was eating supper with two friends when a bomb-laden vehicle stopped outside the building at Sabari, a forward operating base in the Khost province of southeastern Afghanistan.

About that time, Egoavil and fellow soldiers from the Fifth Battalion of the 101st Aviation Combat Brigade were finishing up a fast roping exercise, rappelling from a hovering helicopter.

For two months since members of the unit had deployed from Fort Campbell, Ky., they had continued to train at Forward Operating Base Camp Salerno. Egoavil and his buddies wondered if they would ever get a mission.

That day, March 3, 2007, it would come at Sabari, a 20-minute chopper ride away.

“Our faces changed completely from having fun doing the fast roping exercise to everyone jumping in the vehicle to go back to the arms room to get our equipment and get suited up,” recalls Egoavil, then 25.

Dusk settled in as three Black Hawks took off for Sabari. Upon landing, the unit’s medic called for Egoavil, who also had received training as a medic.

In the devastated mess hall, bodies were everywhere. Everyone fervently pulled rubble away, Egoavil remembers: “Everyone was so frantic at it.”

That’s when he heard the pinned soldier’s faint, plaintive cry. Using the lights from a forklift to illuminate the surreal scene, Egoavil and others began widening a hole to pull the soldier out.

But the toppled pillar proved too heavy. They rushed to get jacks from several Humvees. Wedging broken two-by-fours under the jacks inched the pillar off the soldier’s leg.

Egoavil, 5-foot-3 and 150 pounds with his combat boots on, surveyed the hole in the rubble the men had cleared. He could squeeze through, he told his platoon sergeant, if he took off his body armor.

“I didn’t hear any ‘No’s,’ so I did it and went in,” Egoavil says.

After wriggling into the rubble, he pivoted the injured soldier 180 degrees so outside rescuers could pull him out by his shoulders instead of his injured leg. All the while, a crane held the swaying ceiling of the building aloft.

“That was probably the scariest part right there because the ceiling was swinging over my head,” Egoavil says. “Oh, this is not good. But I didn’t even think of that until after the fact.”

Egoavil never learned the name of the man he saved. When they exited the small rescue hole, both men were covered in dust.

“I mean everything was covered, even his name tapes,” he says. “At the time I didn’t even think to ask. The whole thing was to get him out and look for others.”

Rescuers worked through the rubble for more than two hours. Unfortunately, the injured soldier’s two friends from the 82nd Airborne Division did not survive the blast. Their bodies were found in another fallen section.

And the soldier Egoavil saved?

He’s not sure, “but from what they’ve told me … he did all right.”

To Egoavil, the actions that earned him a Soldier’s Medal for saving the life of another solder weren’t that special.

Not for a soldier.

“That’s what we do,” he says. “That’s what we’re trained for. I knew had that happened to me, I knew a soldier, given the opportunity, would save my life.”

S.L. Alligood covered the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division as an embedded reporter in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an assistant professor of journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.

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Steve-Egoavil-1

Pfc. Steve Egoavil had been wondering if he and his Army unit would ever wind up with a mission in Afghanistan. Soon after that, they did, and Egoavil used his 5-foot-3 frame to his advantage when he rescued a soldier who had become trapped in the aftermath of a bomb explosion. (Photo courtesy of Steve Egoavil)

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Steve Michael Egoavil

U.S. Army / Soldier's Medal

Born Aug. 23, 1983 in Torrance, Calif.

Joined the Army on May 10, 2006. Deployed to Afghanistan on Jan. 12, 2007.

Now a specialist, was a private first class at the time of the incident, when he was assigned to Pathfinders, Fifth Battalion of the 101st Aviation Combat Brigade.

WHAT HE DID
Rescued a fellow soldier who was trapped under a concrete pillar while a crane held the swaying ceiling of the building over him.

WHERE HE IS NOW
Assigned to headquarters of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

WHY HE JOINED THE ARMY
“I joined the military to make a difference. How I lived my life and how I had gone day to day, I felt I could be something more. Making money and living day to day for myself just kind of seemed to be a waste. I felt that if I joined the military I’d have good training, have the opportunity to make a difference in this world.”


Afghanistan / Sabari

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