CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar –
Two Military Police Soldiers tasked with protecting vulnerable Afghan travelers did more than just that when they saved an unresponsive 16-month-old Afghan in November.
For their actions, Spc. Samantha Gallardo and Spc. Shawn Miller of the Fort Stewart, Georgia-based 293rd Military Police Company, deployed here in support of the Afghan Evacuation Mission Support Element, were each awarded the Army Achievement Medal during a ceremony Jan. 1.
Nov. 17 was another typical day on Camp As Sayliyah, where the pair's daily routines include providing security and interacting with Afghan guests. That changed when they got word of an emergency. An Afghan mother and father had tried to wake their child up, but the child was unresponsive and not breathing.
“Another Soldier told us that a mother was in distress,” said Miller, of Chesapeake, Virginia. “When we got [to the scene], there was a mother holding onto her child because he wasn’t breathing.”
The Soldiers immediately knew what to do. As Gallardo, of Fresno, Calif., took the child from his mother and put him on a table, while rubbing his back and sternum to determine if he was choking or having a seizure, Miler got on the radio to call for medical assistance.
Although they are MPs whose primary mission is to provide security for Afghan guests, this wasn’t the first time the Soldiers had to provide medical attention. As she assessed the situation and examined the child, Gallardo also had to keep the parents and herself calm.
“Adrenaline definitely kicks in,” she said. “It hits you pretty hard, but it keeps you calm. So, I was performing the task while also telling the mother to keep calm and that everything was going to be okay.”
Drawing on her training and experiences, Gallardo decided to do a finger sweep.
“I put my finger in his mouth and did a sweep,” Gallardo said. “That was when he started to cry.”
Medical personnel arrived shortly after that and took the family to the clinic to further evaluate the child. Since then, the family has left Camp As Sayliyah for movement to the United States.
Miller and Gallardo credit their training with helping them that day.
“Back home, our training includes first aid because the law-enforcement situation is constantly changing,” Miller said. “We’re trained on a multitude of tasks. These are the tasks we hope we never have to do, but they allow us to assist before medical personnel arrive.”
The Soldiers said the incident was particularly meaningful because of the impact they have on those they were tasked to help.
“It’s a rewarding experience because regardless of where they’re from or where they’re going, we are able to support and help our guests while they’re here under our care,” Miller said.
For Gallardo, saving a child also has personal meanings.
“I am married. I want kids one day, so it is a big relief to be able to help other families,” she said. “Plus, this is the work I like doing – humanitarian work. It’s humbling.”