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Training Helps Mechanic Save Fellow Paratrooper

Compliments of:

By Army Sgt. Mike MacLeod
1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division

Army Sgt. James Hayes has one piece of advice for soon-to-deploy mechanics: take your training seriously.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. James Hayes stands in front of a vehicle-recovery wrecker at Fort Bragg, N.C., on April 30, 2013. Hayes and his team used a wrecker to lift a damaged vehicle off a fellow paratrooper a year ago in Afghanistan, saving the paratrooper’s life. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike MacLeod

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Hayes, a mechanic who deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team to Afghanistan in 2012, said that the first time he had to rely on his training to right a flipped armored vehicle, everything worked exactly as he had trained.

At stake was the life of a fellow paratrooper, Army Spc. Justin Lansford, a turret gunner who was pinned under the top of a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle after it was flipped by an exploding improvised explosive device. Lansford was critically wounded and was bleeding heavily from femoral arteries.

“I remember thinking it was going to turn bad quick if I didn’t do it right,” said Hayes, a freckle-faced former German citizen and son of an American soldier.

When Hayes, Army Cpl. Joshua Dobson and two other mechanics arrived at the attack site, medics were treating Lansford, and the damaged vehicle was on fire, Hayes said.

After extinguishing the fire, the mechanics determined the correct lifting points and amount of winch force to apply based on the vehicle’s weight, and gently lifted the wreckage high enough to extricate the pinned paratrooper.

“I can’t even explain to you how rewarding that feeling was,” Hayes said.

Lansford was airlifted from the battlefield, eventually recovering from his injuries at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Although Lansford lost both of his legs above the knee, he was glad to be alive, he said.

During Hayes’ six-month deployment, he and his team recovered 15 to 20 vehicles. Most were for mechanical failures or driver inexperience, or a combination of the two, he said.

On one convoy, three vehicles, including Hayes’ wrecker, were struck by IEDs within seconds of each other. He and Dobson escaped injury, but soldiers in both of the other two vehicles were medically evacuated by helicopter.

The wrecker had been towing a damaged vehicle when it was hit, so mechanics used a larger truck to tow both vehicles in-line, Hayes said. The train of towed vehicles may have looked odd, he said, but it worked to take them off the battlefield.

“The training really works,” Hayes said.

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About Edited by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer.  In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials.  Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat.  Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republican and The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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