Natick Soldier finally receives Combat Medical Badge
They had just rolled out on a joint night patrol toward a neighboring village in Diyala Province, Iraq, when the first IED detonated, tearing apart an Iraqi police vehicle and ultimately killing three of its four occupants.
As Spc. Aaron Omdahl, a medic attached to 2nd Platoon, Bravo Troop, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Division, rushed to help a wounded policeman, a second IED exploded, followed by the sounds of hostile gunfire.
"It was right outside the police station," Omdahl recalled. "We weren't even on the road yet."
Omdahl wound up treating two of the eight Iraqi police casualties.
"The others were either dead or could be treated by the Iraqis themselves," Omdahl said. "We called for a medevac, and they got there pretty quick."
The January 2009 incident was recorded on video by reporter Jim Wade, who was embedded with the 5-1 Cav. scouts. In the footage, Omdahl is seen treating one of the wounded Iraqis.
"There wasn't a moment that I actually felt like I was scared, like something was going to happen," Omdahl said. "It didn't have that kind of feel to it. Everything felt controlled and everything felt ... well managed.
"You don't know how you're going to do in a situation like that until it happens. And you never actually think about it when it's happening."
Omdahl said he was proud to be a part of that scout platoon and its response.
"I was a scout until they needed a medic. They knew what they were doing. Some of the fondest memories I have are with those guys, and I miss them, to be honest with you."
Omdahl returned from that deployment in August 2009. In May 2010, he was assigned to the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. Now his days are filled with such tasks as drawing blood, ordering labs and maintaining charts.
"It's completely different from what I'm used to," Omdahl said.
As time passed, the 30-year-old Eagle River, Alaska, native held little hope that he would actually receive a Combat Medical Badge for his actions that night in Diyala. He didn't realize that his superiors at USARIEM were working toward it on his behalf.
About a month ago, Omdahl finally received his well-deserved CMB.
"It took a little while," said Omdahl, who credited USARIEM leadership. "I think the only reason why ... this came through was because they actually pushed for it.
"It wasn't really important to the mission here in USARIEM. It was something that was important to me. They actually took interest. I definitely have a great deal of respect for the leadership here."