News: Florida native saves Afghan child from canal
Story by Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes
MARJAH DISTRICT, Afghanistan — A Miami native saved an Afghan toddler from a canal in North Marjah while conducting counterinsurgency operations Sept. 11.
Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Palacios, an infantryman with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, was weaving his squad through a maze of farming fields, canals and beaten footpaths within the area of operations when he saw an Afghan child face down in a canal.
Palacios, a 2007 graduate of Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High, said he was overcome with disbelief when he saw the child floating in the canal next to a compound.
When he pulled the baby out of the canal, she wasn’t moving, and then he began screaming for the corpsman. “I, personally, thought she was dead,” Palacios added.
Seaman Apprentice Byron McGill, a corpsman with Charlie Company, rushed to aid the girl in a matter of seconds. Unaware of what Palacios was yelling about, McGill was disturbed by the scene he came upon. Palacios, who is also a team leader with his squad, handed off the child and set up his Marines to form a security bubble to give McGill the safety and area he needed to work on the unexpected patient.
“Of course, I freaked out at first, (thinking), ‘Oh baby! Dead baby!’” said McGill, a Petal, Miss., native. “Then I told myself, ‘Just do your job.’ I just went by the basic steps — the ABCs.”
McGill evaluated the situation and quickly put the pieces together of what happened.
McGill immediately began administering treatment. He opened the child’s airway and then checked her chest for movement. He did not see any, and he went back to clear the child’s airway for a second time to begin rescue breathing, which is a basic lifesaving step he learned from his medical training. McGill said as soon as he cleared the 2-year-old girl’s airway for the second time using the head-tilt, chin-lift method, the child miraculously reacted.
“The baby started vomiting and choking. I picked the baby up, put her on my knee, and gave her a few thrusts to the back so she can get rid of the vomit and water in her mouth,” said McGill, who joined the Navy in 2008. “She continued to vomit and cough. After about 30 seconds she cried out, and that is when I knew she was OK. I grabbed a cloth and wrapped her in it and held her for a second.”
Several Marines on scene began yelling into the nearby compound to alert someone inside of the incident.
Basbibi, a local resident and the mother of the young girl, said she was inside the house when she noticed her daughter missing. She said she looked for her all over, but it was when she came to the back of the compound that she heard a lot of noise and emerged confused about what was happening outside her home.
“I was scared because I did not know what was going on. There were a lot of Marines around,” said Basbibi. “I realized they were helping my daughter, and my fear faded away.”
McGill handed the child to her mother and gave specific instructions on what to do to care for the toddler. Basbibi gave a sincere thank you to Palacios as he led his squad away to continue their assigned mission.
Palacios, who is responsible for getting his squad to wherever they are going, is to identify when something is strange and doesn’t seem right so his squad can change their route.
Luckily, the route to get to the squad’s objective was not altered that day, and because Palacios was familiar with the area and knew when something looked out of place, one young life was saved thanks to one infantryman’s keen eyes. Palacios was at a loss for words regarding the event and said instinct took over when he saw another human life in danger.
“It seemed surreal to me, but I did what anyone would do, and I pulled the baby out of the canal,” said Palacios.
Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.