Fort Wainwright soldier earns medal for rescue

Action saved Stryker driver from drowning in Iraqi canal

Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2009

FAIRBANKS - A Virginia soldier stationed at Fort Wainwright has been awarded the Soldier's Medal for rescuing a comrade trapped in a Stryker vehicle that rolled into an Iraqi canal.

Spc. Ricardo Farrell of Annandale, Va., dived into what soldiers call the "hell hole" of the vehicle to rescue his driver from drowning.

Farrell was on combat patrol in a Stryker vehicle Dec. 22 when the driver swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle. The vehicle rolled into a canal, leaving a foot of breathable air in the rear of the vehicle. The driver was trapped and Farrell heard him shout for help.

"He was screaming, 'I don't want to die.' I heard him a couple more times, then the yelling stopped," Farrell said in a release from the Army.

He dived into the "hell hole," a small opening between the compartment and driver's seat.

"I went under the hell hole, but I couldn't reach him, I remember moving stuff out of the way and I was scared he had drowned. I thought that was it for him," Farrell said. "I grabbed him by his arm and body armor and pulled him out. I just didn't want my driver to die. That's the worst feeling anyone could have."

Sgt. Melvin Clark of Minneapolis reached the Stryker and opened doors, allowing the trapped soldiers to escape. He was awarded an Army Commendation for Medal for his actions.

Brig. Gen. James C. Nixon, deputy commanding general, 25th Infantry Division, presented Farrell with the Soldier's Medal at Forward Operating Base Warhorse. About 100 Soldier's Medals have been awarded since late 2001 for soldiers who distinguish themselves with heroism not involving actual combat.

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