NAVY ANNEX STUMP NECK, Md. --
Good things can come out of a tragedy.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin McCaughtry, Headquarters and Service Company, Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, is a hospital corpsman here passing on an experience unlike that of what most people have experienced.
“It was surreal. It was like a movie set. Any responder is going to have to deal with a few house fires in his career, but standing next to a 14-story pile of metal is enough to push anyone into a state of disbelief,” McCaughtry, who was a civilian emergency medical technician Sept. 11, 2001.
Yet, it was no movie set.
"It was a mess," McCaughtry said. "Pulverized concrete coated every surface, the air had a sharp quality to it, and it was hard to breath," he added. "Piles of metal beams and trash at every street...You've never seen people drive as hard, work as fast, or even hand out safety goggles and water like you saw there. You couldn't walk 15 feet without someone offering you something to eat or drink."
He said, organization was one of the biggest problems, but like what most people do in the midst of chaos, they kept working.
“The group I was with staffed a triage center at the American Express building,” McCaughtry said. “The immediate feeling was to take off on foot. That added to the confusion. It took a while to get everyone in my group coordinated, because we had 32 ambulances.”
It's the American way, to bounce back and make something good out of a bad thing, McCaughtry said, and that's exactly what he did.
"When I returned to Youngstown , OH., all ambulance calls seemed frivolous to me. The Navy seemed like the place to be," McCaughtry said. "It was hard being 28 and in boot camp, especially after spending years in the passenger seat of an ambulance eating fast food and sleeping odd hours. Now, I'm right where I want to be."
Having spent six years now as a Navy hospital corpsman, McCaughtry feels the deep relationship a corpsman has with his Marines.
"Everyday, whether it's a thrown elbow, insults in the hallway, or a handshake," McCaughtry said, "I feel the relationship (with Marines) that I wanted the first time I was given the name 'Doc.'"
At CBIRF, McCaughtry is in charge of initial development of medical curriculum for the CBIRF Basic Operations Course; and he said those who can do, should also teach.
“Everyone is a pure reflection of their experiences. That experience led me to want to work at CBIRF and here,” said McCaughtry. “I had a Chief Petty Officer tell me in boot camp…if there’s a possibility to create 20 of yourself and have a positive impact, do it. Passing on that experience is going to have a greater effect on someone who’s learning vice reading something off of a power point.”
In the end, McCaughtry said, he’s right where he wants to be, “with the best.”
“There are people all throughout the Incident Command System and National Response Plan who are capable of disaster mitigation. There are few groups capable of handling every facet from medical to decontamination. Most groups have their individual piece. CBIRF just happens to be a group that can handle everything,” McCaughtry said.
Good things came out of a tragedy for this sailor, and now, he’s right where he wants to be: at CBIRF.