By OPEC Staff
Photos by CDCR staff photographer Eric Owens
The same day that Arturo Pacheco was sworn in as a member of the most recent class of CDCR Correctional Officers, he was presented with the Soldier’s Medial for heroism by Maj. Gen. Lawrence A. Haskins, Commander of the California Army National Guard.
He was part of a graduating class of almost 200 cadets who on Friday become Correctional Officers.
The Soldier’s Medal was created by Congress in 1926 and is awarded for heroism at the risk of life not involving conflict with an armed enemy.
Officer Pacheco earned the medal on July 27, 2012, while serving in Afghanistan, according to the Army. Army Sgt. Pacheco was working on a bridge site when he was told there had been a vehicle accident about two miles down the road.
He prepared his mine-resistant, armor-protected (MRAP) recovery vehicle and headed for the accident scene, where he found an overturned fuel truck leaking large quantities of fuel and the driver trapped inside.
Sgt. Pacheco maneuvered his MRAP into position and climbed on top of the overturned truck to attach chains from the MRAP boom.
As the truck was being lifted, parts of the damaged vehicle began to fall, including the truck’s batteries. Held only by connecting cables, the live batteries were dangling just 18 inches above a growing pool of gasoline.
At risk to his own life, Sgt. Pacheco continued the mission. As the truck was lifted, the pinned driver began screaming in pain. Sgt. Pacheco then crawled into the cab where he discovered that the seat arm rest was stabbing the driver in the back. He tore out the arm rest.
Sgt. Pacheco raised the overturned truck as high as possible with the MRAP, but the driver’s left leg was still pinned between the seat and the dashboard.
Sgt. Pacheco noticed a small hydraulic jack and instructed a member of NATO forces from Romania to use it to separate the dash from the seat. While he did, Sgt. Pacheco removed debris from the cab.
After about 45 minutes, Sgt. Pacheco had created enough space to free the driver from the vehicle so he could receive medical attention and be evacuated.
The Army citation recognized that Sgt. Pacheco’s actions directly contributed to the saving of the driver’s life.