'He's the definition of a hero' — Army captain receives Soldier's Medal for saving man from burning car

Unsung Heroes

VIDEO: Members of the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron recall the deployment that won them the Gallant Unit Citation.

It was almost midnight when Army Capt. Travis Johnson was driving home from Fort Bragg last February, and came upon an overturned sedan smoldering on an embankment.

Johnson, a physician assistant assigned to the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, at the time, immediately stopped his car and rushed towards the vehicle, yelling out in case anyone was still inside the ticking time bomb.

There was: an injured man was trapped in the driver's seat, and none of the vehicle's doors would open.

Luckily, Johnson had supplies in his car, including a glass breaking tool and trauma shears. Currently assigned to the 60th Medical Detachment of the North Carolina National Guard, Johnson said in an Army press release that items he keeps the items with him at all times "for any contingency ... the Army trained me that way."

That training paid off. On Wednesday, Johnson was awarded the Soldier's Medal — the Army's highest award for heroism outside of combat — during a ceremony at Fort Bragg's Hall of Heroes for his actions that February night.

Capt. Travis A. Johnson, a native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and a physician assistant assigned to the 60th Medical Detachment, North Carolina National Guard, received the Soldier's Medal during an awards ceremony at the Hall of Heroes on Fort Bragg, Oct. 9, 2019 (U.S. Army/Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

According to the Army release, Johnson "wailed on the windshield with the tool, but it only cracked the glass," so he began kicking the windshield instead, only to be knocked back by "small explosions" from the damaged vehicle.

When another driver pulled over, and Johnson told her to call for help as he continued to attempt to rescue the man from inside the car.

Finally, Johnson kicked through the windshield and was able to pass the driver the trauma shears to cut himself free while Johnson used the jacket from his fire-retardant uniform to cover his hands and pull the windshield off the vehicle.

Once the man was cut free and the windshield was gone, Johnson pulled him out and away from the car — which, by the time the authorities arrived on the scene, was completely enveloped in flames.

The driver was stable and able to walk, and Johnson told the first responders that he had no serious injuries: "I told them I was fine and I just want to go home and take a nap."

During Johnson's awards ceremony on Wednesday, Maj. Gen. James Mingus, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne, commended Johnson for his bravery and selflessness, saying that he "saved another man's life at his own risk and expected nothing in return."

"He's the definition of a hero," Mingus said.

A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.

At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

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The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

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The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

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An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.

But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.

The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.

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