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David R. Hutchinson

U.S. Army Reserve / Silver Star

Reservist ignored his own injuries to tend to wounded comrades after Taliban attack

Pfc. David Hutchinson was only four days into a 12-month deployment with the 420th Engineer Brigade in eastern Afghanistan and was riding on his first patrol to get acquainted with the surroundings in Paktia province.

On the morning of May 21, 2008 Hutchinson, then 21, was in the third of four trucks on what was supposed to be a 3 ½- to 4-hour convoy.

“About halfway through the country,” he said, “we got ambushed.”

The convoy had entered a funnel point in a wall, “just long enough to get all four trucks in there,” Hutchinson said. It was the perfect spot for an ambush, and the convoy dew fire from high ground in two directions.

When all four trucks were maneuvered into the target, about two dozen Taliban fighters opened fire with AK-47s, sniper rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

“I saw like 15 or 20 guys pop up on my right,” Hutchinson said.

He started firing the Mk-19 grenade launcher mounted on his truck. The “Mark 19” can fire up to 60 rounds a minute. Hutchinson would need every round.

“About as fast I could shoot,” Hutchinson said, “that’s how fast they were popping up.”

All 17 soldiers in the convoy fired back, and Hutchinson used an Mk19 to destroy a Taliban machine gun nest. The attackers immediately redirected their fires at the third vehicle, and Hutchinson’s gun turret would leave the engagement with more than 100 bullet marks.

When the Taliban launched rocket-propelled grenades, the first and second hit Hutchinson’s vehicle squarely.

“It knocked me out of my turret and laid me out flat in the cabin,” Hutchinson said. “I was numb from my waist down at first, for the first couple of minutes.”

The RPGs convinced the convoy commander that the Taliban attack had fire superiority, so the drivers of all four vehicles stood on their gas pedals. Several kilometers down the road – out of harm’s way – they stopped to treat casualties.

Hutchinson didn’t have the luxury of waiting that long. First Sgt. David Gussberry was bleeding heavily and needed immediate first aid.

“He took shrapnel to the face and his arms and the side of his chest,” Hutchinson recalled. “His entire upper body was covered in blood.”

Despite his own wounds, Hutchinson rolled over and stanched Gussberry’s wounds with his own first aid kit. And when a Medevac helicopter arrived with only a single litter, Hutchinson insisted that Gussberry be evacuated first.

Two F-15s escorted the rest of the convoy back to the nearest base. All 17 soldiers survived the attack.

Hutchinson’s deployment was a short one; he was sent home the day after the firefight. And on June 6, 2009, the 65th anniversary of D-Day, Hutchinson became only the fifth Army Reserve soldier to be awarded the Silver Star.

Thomas L. Day is a military reporter for the (Macon, Ga.) Telegraph. As a member of the 101st Airborne Division in 2003-2004, he served in Kuwait and Mosul on the public affairs staff of Maj. Gen. David Petraeus. He is the author of

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Pfc. David Hutchinson's convoy encountered heavy opposition from the Taliban, but his reaction with the Mk-19 grenade launcher helped avert a disaster for U.S. troops. (Photo courtesy of David Hutchinson)

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David R. Hutchinson

U.S. Army Reserve / Silver Star

Born April 3, 1987, in Humble, Texas.

Was married on July 18.

Was a private first class at the time of the incident.

Has two cousins who are also in the Army.

Knocked out a Taliban machine-gun nest when his convoy was ambushed. After he was hurt when his truck was hit with enemy rocket-propelled grenades, he helped stop the bleeding of an injured comrade.

A retail sales consultant for AT&T in Brenham, Texas.

"A lot of the male figures on my mother's side of the family have served in some capacity or other. Most of them were Air Force. I'm not a fan of flying too much. So I joined the Army ... and then to pay for school as well."

Afghanistan / Paktia Province

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