Czech soldier in Afghanistan decorated for bravery

Michal Novotný, photo: Jana Růžičková, Czech Army

A Czech soldier serving in Afghanistan’s southern province Logar has been awarded the United States Armed Forces Bronze Star Medal. Staff Sgt. Michal Novotný who is squad leader of the Prostějov reconnaissance unit was decorated for helping to save the life of an American soldier.

Michal Novotný,  photo: Jana Růžičková,  Czech Army
It was to have been a routine clearance patrol, one of many in the life of reconnaissance squad leader and combat medic Michal Novotný. But the mission on November 19th of last year ran into serious difficulties. A number of roadside bombs went off in quick succession seriously injuring an American soldier who was monitoring the ground some distance away on foot. Novotný rushed in without security and applied tourniquets, despite the possibility that more bombs could detonate. Here is how he recalls the incident.

“There was an explosion close-by and for a few seconds there was confusion as we tried to figure what was happening. It was hard to tell at first if we were under a mortar attack by insurgents or if it was planted bombs going off. Then one of our boys said he could see a soldier in trouble in the field so I asked the driver to let me out and ran to help him.”

Michal Novotný and the American soldiers,  photo: Jana Růžičková,  Czech Army
The US soldier had lost both legs and a hand in the explosion which flung him several metres from the crater it caused. Novotný, an experienced combat medic, dragged him to safer ground and set about doing what he could to save his life. Soon others ran to help and within 14 minutes a Medivac helicopter had landed on the site. Surgeons at the army hospital said later he had saved the soldier’s life. Sgt. Novotný says he was only doing his job.

“It was thanks to the training courses I received in the United States that I could serve at the Forward Operating Base. The award is a big honor but the biggest reward is having saved the man’s life. I hear his second child was recently born so he has a lot to live for. As I see it I was just doing my job and didn’t expect recognition. I was told the doctors at the army hospital reported on the case and put my name forward for this award.”

This incident was not the only time when Sgt. Novotný could put his medical training to good use. He was there when a Czech armed vehicle hit a mine in 2008 injuring one of his team and killing another.

Michal Novotný  (right),  photo: Jana Růžičková,  Czech Army
Despite the bad memories Sgt Novotný who has now completed two missions in Afghanistan wants to join another next year. He says that having gained the experience he wants to use it:

“There’s another mission next year that I want to be part of because I think if one has the experience one should use it. I put a lot of time and effort into training for such situations and I think the boys who were out there with me will welcome the fact that I’m with them and that they can rely on me whenever they run into trouble.”