MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (July 5, 2012) — A United States Central Command soldier is credited with saving the life of a Tampa man shot in the neck near Westshore Avenue in Tampa June 24.
CENTCOM has recommended that Sgt. James Caswell, a native of Battle Creek, Mich., be awarded the Soldier’s Medal, the highest honor for an act of valor in a non-combat environment, for the courage and skill of his quick response.
Caswell said he heard gunshots while driving home from work at MacDill Air Force Base around 2:15 p.m. “My first instinct was to duck,” said Caswell, who deployed to Iraq for a year in 2008. “Then in my rearview mirror I saw a car speed off in the opposite direction. At the same time, I saw an individual on my side of the street stumble and fall to the ground.”
Worried that the shooter would return, Caswell hesitated for a brief second before grabbing his cell phone and running toward the victim, dialing 911 en route. He gave his location and situation to the 911 operator and then immediately turned his attention to the wounded man lying on the ground, bleeding profusely from his neck.
“My adrenaline was pumping,” said Caswell. “I had never been in a situation like this. I went through the Combat Lifesaver Course and, as I had been taught there, I immediately put direct pressure to the neck wound with my hands.”
Struggling to stem the flow of blood with his hands, Caswell removed his shirt and used it to apply pressure to the wound.
“The blood was everywhere,” said Caswell. “It was coming out of his neck so quickly that I didn’t know if I would be able to stop it – or stop it in time.”
When his shirt became so blood-soaked that it ceased being effective, Caswell borrowed the shirt of a man standing nearby and pressed the fresh shirt to the wound. At about that time, Petty Officer Christopher Elmini, a colleague of Caswell’s who happened to be a few cars behind him, jumped out of his car and ran to help Caswell treat the victim until the police and paramedics arrived.
“I was just glad that I was there at that time to help the guy and to be able help to Caswell,” said Elmini, a native of Denver, Co., who worked to calm the wounded man while Caswell applied pressure to the wound.
When the paramedics arrived a short while later, they credited Caswell with saving the victim from bleeding to death.
U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis, CENTCOM commander, said to Caswell after the incident, “Our NCO [non-commissioned officer] corps is a secret weapon that we have here. A lot of people would have sped off but you did exactly what we would expect of you.”
“There is no question that your fast-thinking and selfless attitude saved this person’s life,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe, CENTCOM command sergeant major, to Caswell and Elmini. “Even though we, as military service members, train for emergencies all the time, we don’t really expect to be confronted with life-or-death situations on our drive home from work. It’s a real credit to you both that you put your training into action to save a life.”