PHOENIX, Ariz. – A Maryland Army National Guardsman was honored for rescuing a boy who fell into the Salt River while the Soldier was attending training at the Western Army Aviation Training Site (WAATS) in Red Rock, Arizona.
Staff Sgt. Charles Brauning, assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment of the 29th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, was awarded an Army Achievement Medal by WAATS leadership for his quick response that saved the boy from drowning during an off-duty trip.
On June 17, Brauning and his classmates from the Senior Leaders Course at WAATS were enjoying a class morale trip tubing down the Salt River. While on the river, Brauning became separated from the group when he noticed a 10-year-old boy fall into the rapidly moving water.
Once the boy lost his footing on the rocks, the current carried him downriver, and at times he was completely submerged. His family was ashore and too distant to reach him.
Without hesitation, Brauning left his inner tube and swam to the boy, pulling him from the current and helping him return to his family.
According to the award citation, his quick action prevented the situation from escalating into a more serious emergency.
Brauning, a full-time aviation technician at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, credits his response to his civilian training as a volunteer firefighter with the Carroll County Fire Department.
“I don’t really know how to describe it; it’s just instinct,” said Brauning. “As a fireman, when you get the call, you jump on a rig and roll out the door. I think that kind of experience was a factor in helping this person once I realized they were in distress.”
The boy was shaken and afraid but otherwise unharmed, and his family was grateful for the assistance. Everything happened so fast that Brauning’s classmates didn’t even notice he was missing until he caught back up to them.
“Situational awareness is important because someone can drown in a few inches of water, especially a young kid,” said Brauning. “It’s just common human decency to help someone in need.”
Brauning’s leadership in Maryland also recognized his efforts.
“Everyday Staff Sgt. Brauning shows his exemplary character, selfless service and quick thinking,” said Maryland Army National Guard Capt. Rachel Mazzone, commander of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. “These qualities were reflected in his heroic actions while away at training. I am extremely honored and proud to have him as a Soldier and leader in our unit.”