An Iowa National Guard soldier from northwest Iowa was presented with a special award over the weekend after coming a fraction of an inch of being critically wounded in combat in Afghanistan. Twenty-three-year-old Specialist Tom Albers of Alton was on patrol in May of 2011 when his unit came under fire and an insurgent’s bullet hit him in the helmet.
“It was actually the first shot of the firefight,” Albers says. “We were still on our patrol, walking. I was just disoriented when it happened and a little confused about what had happened, then got behind cover and returned fire.” Albers is based at the 113th Cavalry Squadron, Charlie Company, from Le Mars, where he was presented on Saturday with the helmet that saved his life.
After the bullet hit his helmet, Albers says it took a few seconds for him to realize what happened but when he saw there wasn’t any blood, he continued on. “I was just going to point out I’d seen a building to my right to the guy that was on my left side and in the middle of saying that’s when I got shot,” Albers says.
“Afterwards, I was confused about what happened but the guy to the left of me shouted and told me where fire was coming from, so I returned fire and got behind cover and went on from there to get on with the mission.” He says some time passed before he was able to take a good look at the helmet.
“I couldn’t see anything until we got behind cover and then our medic took it off,” Albers says. “The inside just looked like the pads had been torn apart and then there were a couple of holes, one on the front left side and one in the back where it had gone in and out.”
Albers was evacuated, with his only injury being a small burn mark across the top of his head. His helmet was sent to the Program Executive Office based in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for analysis. That office is assigned to developing, producing, fielding and sustaining virtually everything a soldier wears, carries, and operates.
At this weekend’s ceremony, Albers was given the helmet in a presentation case with a plaque at the Le Mars armory.
By Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars