Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Regular mission, irregular event

Story by George Stringham, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-St. Louis District 

MINOT, N.D. - Deployed by the Corps to be the resident engineer for the debris removal mission for communities in Ward County that were inundated by the flooding Souris River, Vicksburg District’s Barry Sullivan arrived in Minot, N.D., on July 20, 2011, for what he thought was going to be another debris removal mission.

While helping people get their lives back in order is nothing unfamiliar to him, an event July 28 changed his perspective on why he’s in Minot. On that morning, working with a debris removal crew in a community east of Minot, a contractor spotted a man lying face down on the ground next to his riding lawnmower.

“We’re very fortunate that John Stokes with Steve Goldman (the sub-contractor) saw him and got my attention,” Sullivan said. “My thoughts went from our debris work to responding to this gentleman. Sitting next to his lawnmower, face down like that, I was really worried.”

Sullivan said that when he got to the gentleman, he determined he had a pulse and was breathing. His eyes were open but he wasn’t moving and was non-responsive. Sullivan dialed 911 and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent arrived within minutes. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with the National Guard and other Federal law enforcement agencies, are augmenting the Minot Police and Ward County Sheriff departments while recovery efforts continue.

Upon arriving at the scene and with the assistance of Officer Ward, the Border agent, and another nearby equipment operator, Anthony “Pappy” Britt, they secured his neck and spine, rolled him over and cleaned the dirt from his face and mouth, resulting in better breathing. One of the contractors also gave him some water. In 10 minutes, two ambulances arrived and stabilized him for transfer to a local medical facility. In the interim, a neighbor told Sullivan that he’s had a stroke or more in the past and he passed this valuable information to the EMTs before they departed.

“Barry’s quick action and calm demeanor played a critical role in what happened,” said Lt. Col. Kendall Bergmann, Mission Commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Souris River flood recovery efforts. “The actions by both him and our contractors out there are worth commending and recognizing. While our mission is to assist the communities of Ward and McHenry County recover from this catastrophic and historic event, the broader aspect is that there’s the human element that goes along with all disasters.”

Sullivan has since followed up with the neighbor on the status of the gentleman and learned that he’s recovering.

“Sometimes you wonder what you are doing here,” Sullivan questioned. “Then something like this happens and everything starts to fall into perspective.”

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