1st Special Forces Group Staff Sgt. Brian Guzman, shown during a deployment to Afghanistan, has been awarded for valor on the battlefield and named the Army's medic of the year. (1st Special Forces Group)
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His commander describes him as a force of nature, but if you ask Staff Sgt. Brian W. Guzman, he’s just one of the guys.
Guzman, 35, was recognized as the 2012 Special Forces Medical Sergeant of the Year during a ceremony April 15 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
During the ceremony, Guzman was also awarded the Army Commendation Medal with "V" device for his actions during his recent deployment to Afghanistan.
Guzman, who is assigned to A Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, said he couldn’t believe he was selected to receive the medic award.
"I was, ‘Are you serious? Are you seriously picking me?’" he told Army Times. "It’s hard to believe you’re going to be picked over everyone else. I always expected there was someone out there doing more than I was."
The Special Forces Medical Sergeant of the Year award annually recognizes an 18D soldier for sustained superior performance of duty as a medic. Nominees and recipients, who are submitted for consideration by their respective battalion leadership teams, are considered for their performance in garrison and in combat.
Guzman is "definitely a force of nature," said Capt. Torrey Langdon, Guzman’s detachment commander.
"He absolutely puts the team before himself," Langdon said. "He’s a hard worker. He’s one of those guys you can depend upon in any situation."
Guzman proved himself during the detachment’s recent deployment to Afghanistan, Langdon said. In addition to the ARCOM with "V," there are at least two other valor awards pending approval for the staff sergeant, Langdon said.
Guzman doesn’t like to bring attention upon himself, Langdon said, but he stands out because of his attitude.
"He’s an outstanding medic, but there are many outstanding medics here," Langdon said. "He’s just one of those guys who always wants to do his job. He’s the first guy to have his bags packed. He’s the first guy to help somebody else on the team do the job. I’ve never met anyone else like that anywhere. He’s something special."
Langdon also credited his entire team of soldiers for their performance under fire.
"This company is one of the most combat experienced companies in the group, and that is a fact," he said.
Guzman joined the Army in 1997 as a combat medic, eventually deploying to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. He was selected for Special Forces in 2007, and has been with 1st Special Forces Group since 2010.
During his deployment to Afghanistan from March 2011 to February 2012, Guzman was the senior medic, and for a while the only medic, on the team.
"I went through a lot of Rip It [energy drinks] out there," he said, laughing.
Heroism in Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, Guzman participated in more than 250 combat operations.
During one of those operations, on Sept. 10, 2011, Guzman and his team were working with their Afghan partners on a combat reconnaissance patrol when the lead vehicle in the convoy hit an improvised explosive device.
The blast threw three of the four occupants from the vehicle and trapped the fourth Afghan soldier inside.
According to the citation accompanying his ARCOM with "V," Guzman immediately ran to the destroyed vehicle "as its engine was burning uncontrollably, causing severe burns to the trapped partner force individual."
As Guzman approached the burning truck, a secondary remote-controlled IED exploded 10 meters to the east, peppering Guzman with rocks and debris.
Guzman continued to move toward the burning vehicle, even after .50-caliber rounds began to cook off from the intense heat from the flames.
"Sergeant Guzman continued to place himself at great risk by treating three partner force personnel that were ejected from the vehicle … [and] after the last partner force individual that was trapped in the vehicle was free, he immediately began treating his severe wounds," according to the award citation.
The wounded Afghan stopped breathing twice while waiting for a medevac, and Guzman resuscitated him both times, according to the citation.
"It was a team effort," Guzman said. "If it wasn’t for everybody on the team doing what they did, that guy wouldn’t have made it."
During a separate combat operation, Guzman risked his own life to save the lives of two wounded American soldiers, directly exposing himself to enemy fire and earning his fourth Purple Heart.
Guzman’s accomplishments don’t end in combat, according to a narrative explaining his selection as the Special Forces Medical Sergeant of the Year.
During the deployment, Guzman was selected to transform an untrained Afghan National Army platoon into an independent counterinsurgency-capable force. Not only did he train the Afghan soldiers, he also trained the Afghan scout squad, teaching them to confidently avoid mines and ambushes, according to the narrative.
"Brian used his own intimate knowledge of reconnaissance techniques to train the scout squad in mission planning and execution, providing over 200 hours of combat skills training," according to the narrative.
He also conducted more than 10 medical engagements, treating more than 1,500 locals.
One of his patients was an Afghan woman who was in diabetic ketoacidosis, a medical emergency that is fatal if not treated correctly.
The insulin-dependent woman’s condition was so severe that she was seizing, Guzman said.
"She wasn’t getting her insulin … and it was to the point where she just wasn’t processing anything and she really became toxic," he said.
Guzman said he had two options: wait for a medevac or move the woman to the team’s home base and provide treatment more quickly.
"She was already seizing," he said. "This way, I could do everything I had to do to save her life in less amount of time."
The woman survived her ordeal, and Guzman’s treatment of her paved the way for other women in the area to seek medical care, he said.
"The whole issue with females being treated by males was forbidden, but after that situation, I had a new population of patients I had to treat," he said. "It allowed me to implement the female engagement team to come down there and give them a foothold in that area."
Despite his accomplishments, Guzman deftly and insistently deflects any recognition or praise.
"This isn’t about me," he said. "This is about all the guys on the team. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do my job. When anybody asks about Special Forces in general, it’s never an individual thing. It’s always about the other guys. When you’re in Special Forces, everybody wants to be here for the same reasons, and you can’t beat that."