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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 14, 2007

SERGEANT’S QUICK RESPONSE TO FUEL EXPLOSION


EARNS HIM ARMY’S HIGHEST PEACETIME MEDAL
By Spc. Alfredo Jimenez Jr.
1st Armored Division Public Affairs Office

FRIEDBERG, Germany -- Looking out at the crowd filling the stands to capacity at

the Ray Barracks fitness center here, Sgt. Christopher M. Cafaro wondered how one

brief, simple act could lead to something like this.

His thoughts took him back two years,

to a place near the dining facility where

he was packing his bags to head home

following a deployment rehearsal

exercise at the Hohenfels (Germany)

Training Area.
SPC ALFREDO JIMENEZ JR
Col. Sean B. MacFarland, commander of 1st Brigade
Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, pins the Soldier's
Medal on Sgt. Christopher M. Cafaro of the brigade's 1st As Cafaro packed, a loud booming sound
Battalion, 37th Armor at the fitness center on Ray Barracks
in Friedberg, Germany March 5.
suddenly split the air. Recalling that he

had seen a fuel truck nearby, he rushed to see what had happened.

Sure enough, the truck had exploded in a raging mass of flame. As Cafaro hurried to

the scene, a burning man bumped into him. He was obviously seriously injured and
needed help fast. While Cafaro and another Soldier were putting out the flames, a

second victim walked up to them in flames. Cafaro helped put that fire out, too.

In the midst of the chaos Cafaro heard someone yell that the truck was going to

explode. Instead of running for his life, he dashed to the potentially deadly vehicle

and turned off its fuel valve.

That seemingly innocuous turn of a valve prevented further explosions or injuries,

and led Cafaro to a place of honor. Standing tall before that crowd in the fitness

center March 5, his brigade commander presented the sergeant with the Army's

highest award for noncombat heroism -- the Soldier's Medal.

“I never expected to receive anything for it,” Cafaro said of his actions that day. “I

just did what I hope others would do in the same situation.”

“It might have been the dumbest thing I’ve done,” he added. “But if I didn’t do it,

there would be more casualties.”

During the two years that passed from the day of the explosion to the medal

ceremony, Cafaro's unit -- the 1st Battalion, 37th Armor -- spent 14 months in

combat in Iraq. The heroism the sergeant displayed that day, stated Col. Sean

McFarland, commander of the 1st Armored Division's 1st Brigade, is typical of the

stuff he and his peers displayed in battle.

“He earned the Soldiers Medal,” said MacFarland. “This foreshadowed the type of

heroism and personal courage that Cafaro embodies.”


The sergeant claims his singular act pales in comparison to his comrades'

performance in Iraq, and said he would trade the Soldier's Medal for the opportunity

to bring back some of his fallen comrades.

“It means a lot to get it in front of my peers, and I hope they realize that medals do

not make you a value to the country, but what (you learn) from the experience (of

earning them),” Cafaro said.

The Soldier's Medal, established July 2, 1926, is awarded to members of the U.S.

armed forces who commit acts of heroism and meritorious service not involving

actual conflict with an enemy, while serving in any capacity with the Army.

The medal is often awarded to Soldiers who risk their lives to save others. It can be

awarded in peacetime if the act of heroism would have justified an award of the

Distinguished Service Cross -- which is only awarded for valor -- if the act had taken

place in combat.