News: Marines on Okinawa help local girl
Three Marines utilized their training as aircraft rescue and firefighting specialists to be first responders at the scene of a traffic incident involving a Japanese school-aged girl who had been struck by a truck while crossing a road near Motobu, Okinawa, April 19, and were recognized with Navy Achievement Medals, May 7, for their actions.
Two of the Marines went to her and administered first-aid procedures while the third waited with the crash, fire, and rescue truck which the Marines were driving to the ferry station at Motobu.
The Marines, with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, are all currently stationed at the Ie Shima Training Facility and were en route there. The ferry is the only way to transport vehicles to the island. As they were nearing Motobo Port, they saw a truck which had previously been stopped accelerate and hit a young girl who was crossing the street on a bicycle, said Lance Cpl. Ben Fluharty.
The girl was moved to the side of the road by some bystanders. At first she was laughing, but then she started crying, said Lance Cpl. Zach Bender.
There was blood on her hands, and the Marines were concerned about the possibility of head trauma, so they tried to get her to lay down on the ground in order to control the possibility of further injury, said Bender.
An elderly couple and the girl's friend spoke a little English and assisted with the process. "[We were] trying to explain as best we could what was going on," Bender said.
"[We] had to play charades a little bit," said Cpl. Jesse Butler explaining the difficulties of the language barrier.
Ultimately, Bender had to lie down on the ground in order for her to fully understand, Butler said.
Fluharty who had seen the incident occur and alerted his fellow Marines to the incident stayed behind with the truck, as is the unit protocol, and contacted the unit's staff noncommissioned officer in charge who was behind the Marines in traffic.
Staff Sgt. Eddie Coffey, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge for the aircraft rescue and firefighting detachment at the Ie Shima Training Facility, arrived on scene and observed the situation.
He was pleased with the professional response of his Marines and that they stuck to the first-responder protocol they've been taught, Coffey said.
A lot of people will see an injured girl and respond automatically without ensuring they have proper protective equipment such as gloves, he added.
They did their job the way they were trained to do it and were able to keep her calm until the Japanese ambulance and paramedics arrived on scene, said Coffey.
Bender and Butler helped the Japanese paramedics place the girl onto a backboard to prevent further injury in case she had a head or back injury. Once she was loaded into the waiting ambulance for transport to the hospital, they received a thumbs-up gesture from the Japanese paramedic, Butler said.
Then, they returned to their original objective of getting their crash, fire, and rescue truck to the port and back on to Ie Shima, Butler added.
The Marines did not view the incident as anything out of the ordinary for them. It is part of their training as firefighters to help people, Bender said.
"When people are running away, we're running in," Butler said.
"It's our job," Bender added.
As aircraft rescue and firefighting specialists, we go through so much training and are prepared by it to adapt to ever changing circumstances so when a real-life situation happens we know how to respond, Butler said.
"I just pushed play, and we did what we were supposed to do," he added.
The Marines have not heard from the girl who they delivered first aid to, but they were assured by Japanese authorities she was released from the hospital the same day and is doing well, according to Butler.
One other thing the Japanese authorities mentioned in a telephone call to the Ie Shima station after the incident:
"The little girl had said she felt much better when the men in the tan jumpsuits were there," Butler said.