Lance Cpl. Daniel Kim (front row, second from left), 20, of San Francisco, poses with his fellow Marines for a unit photograph. Kim is an unlikely hero who rescued a fellow Marine from an IED blast June 7. Kim is a vehicle commander with A Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6. RCT-6 is currently conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Matthew M. Joseph.
June 13, 2007; Submitted on: 06/13/2007 11:48:33 AM ; Story ID#: 2007613114833
By Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard, Regimental Combat Team 6
FALLUJAH, Iraq (June 13, 2007) -- No one really knows how they will react under extreme stress until they are thrust into a situation in which they have no options but to do so. Some may collapse under the weight; others, however, rise up and meet the challenges set before them.
One Marine was confronted with a literal do-or-die situation when a roadside bomb rocked his amphibious assault vehicle north of Fallujah during combat operations, June 7.
Lance Cpl. Daniel Kim, 20, is a crew chief with A Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, in charge of one of the three AAVs in his section. As Kim’s crew, including his section leader, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey S. Vogel, 29, of Boca Raton, Fla., executed their combat patrol, they came to a bridge overpass that was a known site for terrorists to emplace improvised explosive devices...
...“I remember looking up at the bridge. We were almost through so I looked down,” said Kim.
It was then, Kim recalled, he was blown forward and lost consciousness.
“I woke to my staff sergeant screaming over the radio, asking if everyone was OK. I felt the track moving into the (other) lane,” said Kim, a San Francisco native and 2005 George Washington High School graduate.
Kim proudly recounted how his driver, Lance Cpl. John D. Miller, 21, maintained his composure after the blast and performed the immediate action training had drilled into his head. Without hesitation, he maneuvered the 20-plus-ton tracked vehicle into a hasty cordon to establish security.
The shockwave from the blast rattled his cage; Kim said he thought he was seeing stars, but as his eyes focused and the haze lifted from his mind, he realized the chemical light sticks had burst in the explosion. He then realized there was one Marine he hadn’t taken visual stock of: the communications Marine sitting just a few feet behind him in the troop compartment of the AAV.
“I looked back there and he was sitting where he usually does. There was debris and it was dark. The electronics (in the troop compartment) had shorted out,” he said.
Kim let Vogel know what had happened, then jumped out of his seat and went back to assess the Marine. By what little ambient light was making its way into the compartment, Kim could see one of the leatherneck’s legs had been traumatically amputated.
Before deploying to a war zone, Marines receive extensive first aid training. Kim and his fellow “Amtrackers” had attended the Combat Lifesaver’s Course at their home base of Camp Lejeune, N.C. Periodic refresher courses were also held aboard Camp Fallujah. This repetition of training paid off for Kim when the lessons that had been drilled into his head guided his actions.
“CLS taught me you can bleed out quickly. I remember thinking that since he was sitting up blood was flowing more quickly to his wound. I pulled him down to the (floor of the AAV) because I didn’t want him bleeding out. I wanted to get his heart lower than his injury,” recalled Kim. “I keep a tourniquet on my left shoulder and I was fumbling with it with my left hand, because my right was keeping pressure on his femoral artery.”
About this time, Kim said, he heard the “pop-pop-pop” staccato of rifle fire. After Kim had moved from his position in one of the forward seats of the vehicle, Vogel turned his turret in order to get a better view down into the troop compartment.
“That’s when I heard rounds pinging off the vehicle,” said Vogel. “I turned my turret to shine my spotlight, and I saw five guys on the berm. We were returning fire.”
Due to the location of the amputation, Kim couldn’t get a good fix on the tourniquet. The only significant light in the cabin was the green light of one of the digital displays in the compartment flickering on and off.
“I couldn’t see if I got the tourniquet on. He was fading in and out of consciousness, and I would tighten down the tourniquet to make him wake up. I didn’t want to do it because I know it hurt him, but I had to,” said Kim.
While one of Kim’s hands applied pressure with the tourniquet, the other was digging into the combat lifesaver bag. He pulled out a field dressing and ripped it open.
“I started wrapping (the dressing) around his leg as best I could and put the pad over the wound. Staff Sgt. Vogel asked me his condition and I told him we had to get him out of there because he had lost his leg,” recalled Kim. “(The wounded Marine) kept asking me if (the communication systems) were still good.”
Vogel radioed to the rest of the section to break contact with the enemy. While he and Miller had been decisively engaged with the enemy, and while Kim had been performing lifesaving first aid on the Marine below, Vogel had not realized he, too, had been peppered with shrapnel.
“It felt like we were engaged for awhile, but it must have been two to three minutes. When we broke contact I called in a casualty report. I thought I was sweating and was jerking my arm to fling the sweat off. I looked down at my hand and saw red. I was like, ‘What the hell?’” said Vogel. “I had to call in another casualty report for myself.”
As Kim’s vehicle and the other AAVs in his section rolled out, the notoriously bumpy ride of the machine was making it even more difficult for Kim to keep a good visual on his friend’s injuries. Regardless, he maintained control of the wound and kept the bleeding under control as well as he could. When the combat patrol reached the nearest outpost, additional rescuers rushed the vehicle. Vogel’s casualty reports had alerted them to the urgent nature of the situation.
“I felt the track stop and heard banging on the hatch. I went over, unlocked it, then ran back to (the wounded Marine). I heard the little door fly open, and bright lights from the headlights of the vehicle behind us flooded the compartment,” Kim said.
Navy corpsmen leapt into the fray. During the evacuation, Kim had no idea whether his first aid had done any good. The status of his fellow Marine was completely unknown to the young leatherneck; he was simply executing his training to the best of his abilities.
“Someone turned a flashlight on the wound, and I heard someone say, ‘Oh, s---.’ I still thought I had let him bleed out,” said Kim.
He had not bled out. In fact, the gravely injured Marine would survive his injuries thanks to Kim’s quick thinking and unhesitating action. Once the moment of truth had ended, Kim said his body and brain were still in overdrive. He described the scene.
“After the corspmen took him I was running around and didn’t know what to do. I was outside, just trying to find my rifle. I had this metallic taste in my mouth, I guess from the blast, because staff sergeant said he had it too,” Kim recalled. “You know when rain first drops, how the dirt smells? It smelled just like that, but thicker.”
The Marine doesn’t look like a hero from the movie screen. Standing at 5 foot 10 inches, just over 185 pounds, the son of South Korean parents wears glasses and is utterly unassuming. He is smart and articulate. He is also known to be a reliable center of gravity in extreme situations, said Vogel.
When an AAV from Kim’s section hit an IED in May, it flipped upside down, killing two Marines and wounding two others. Kim took control of the command vehicle while Vogel and his platoon sergeant, Gunnery Sgt. Christopher M. Brown, were managing the situation outside the vehicle. Kim had full control of the AAV and used a communication system he had never been trained on to keep his higher headquarters appraised of the situation on the ground.
As the June 7 attack unfolded, Vogel said he had complete faith in his Marine.
“Kim is consistently calm under pressure. It was not an easy thing to do, and he had 100 percent control out there. For a lance corporal to operate like that is outstanding. I could use a platoon full of Marines like him,” Vogel said. “He didn’t freeze. He just kept hearing the first aid classes in his head. He had his priorities in his mind. He knew what he had to do to save (the wounded Marine). Kim definitely saved his life.”
A day passed, Kim returned to the A Company command post aboard Camp Fallujah, and he had the opportunity to talk to the Marine whose life he had saved.
“When I got back here (Camp Fallujah), I called him. He was in Al Asad in stable condition. He thanked me for saving his life,” recalled Kim.
The excitement of the event had pumped Kim full of adrenaline and worry for his gravely wounded friend. He said he was unable to sleep for two days; however, once he talked to his fellow Marine, that problem was alleviated.
“After that (conversation), I felt like I could sleep, and I did. I crashed after 48 hours awake,” he said with a laugh.
Brown reflected on Kim’s actions that day.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s just the way he is on a daily basis. Excellence is something we ex