Green Beret Awarded Soldier’s Medal After Saving Drowning Woman

Photo Credit: Sgt. Daniel Mariscal / DVIDS

Staff Sergeant Ian Tyrrel of the 5th Special Forces Group’s B Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne) was recently awarded the Soldier’s Medal at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. The ceremony comes two years after the Green Beret rescued a woman drowning in Tennessee’s Red River.

A heroic act

Tyrrel had recently begun his posting at Fort Campbell in August 2019 when he decided to spend a weekend kayaking with a friend. The two traveled to Port Royal State Park, where they spent the day along the Red River. During the trip, Tyrrel and his friend noticed a commotion and saw a woman struggling to keep above the water.

Close up of the Soldier's Medal on Staff Sgt. Tyrrel's chest
Photo Credit: Sgt. Daniel Mariscal / DVIDS

The pair dove into the water and brought the woman ashore. Tyrrel noticed she had broken her leg when pulled under by the river’s strong current. The first responder who arrived at the remote location didn’t a tool to set the leg, so Tyrrel improvised and created a splint from a boat oar.

“When the first responder came down, he didn’t have any of the equipment that he needed. The only thing I could find to make an improvised splint was the oar,” said the Green Beret.

Tyrrel continued to care for the woman until she could be loaded into a life raft. He then helped navigate the raft through the rapids to an evacuation point, from which she was taken to receive medical attention.

Rewarded for his actions

An awards ceremony was held at the Deeks Language Lab at Fort Campbell on July 14, 2021. Tyrrel had the medal pinned to his chest by Major General John W. Brennan, Commanding General of the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne).

“One of the greatest things we get to do is recognize bravery,” said Maj. Gen. Brennan. “It’s common to recognize our soldiers in a combat zone, but what Staff. Sgt. Tyrrel did is not common.

Maj. Gen. Brennan pinning the Soldier's Medal to Staff Sgt. Tyrrel's chest
Photo Credit: Sgt. Daniel Mariscal / DVIDS

“He put himself at great personal risk to save a fellow human being who could’ve possibly died,” he added. “I cannot be more proud of him; he represents the Special Forces Regiment and the U.S. Army with extreme selflessness and honor.”

Tyrrel was taken aback by the reaction of this superiors, as he only did what his training as a medical sergeant required him to, “The lady needed help; I helped her. Anybody else would have done the same thing.”

History of the Soldier’s Medal

The Soldier’s Medal was established in 1926 and is the service’s highest award for bravery at the risk of one’s own life outside of conflict. It was first awarded in October 1927 to John F. Burns, James P. Martin, James K. Wilson, and Cleophas C. Bernett.

According to the U.S. Army, the medal “is awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the United States or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the Army of the United States, including Reserve Component soldiers not serving in a duty status at the time of the heroic act, distinguished himself or herself by heroism not involving conflict with any enemy.”

Soldier's Medal
Soldier’s Medal. (Photo Credit: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons)

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Other notable Soldier’s Medal recipients include Aaron Bank, founder of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, and Alek Skarlatos, who thwarted a terrorist attack on a train in France.