Command Sgt. Maj. embodies spirit of NCO

by Spc. Adrienne Killingsworth
18th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs

In a year that the Army has dedicated to its non-commissioned officers, there will invariably be those who stand out for embodying what it truly means to be a leader of Soldiers.

For the 18th Military Police Brigade, the spotlight has fallen on its top enlisted Soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Brenda K. Curfman, command sergeant major, 18th MP Bde.

Command Sergeant Major Curfman has proved herself to be not only an outstanding leader but an equally impressive Soldier. On Dec. 17, 2007, she was placed in a situation that tested her abilities and proved her character as a Soldier and an NCO.

Nearly 16 months have passed since the incident that earned Command Sergeant Major Curfman an Army Commendation Medal with Valor, but she said she still remembers it vividly.

At the time, Command Sergeant Major Curfman was the battalion command sergeant major for the 95th Military Police Battalion.

She was traveling by road to visit Iraqi Police stations to check on her Soldiers as they worked their mission of transitioning the police stations to the Iraqi police. As usual, she had planned on visiting multiple stations that day. Intelligence on the routes had been acquired, the routes had been planned and the convoy of up-armored Humvees was ready to move out.

Command Sergeant Major Curfman was in the second vehicle in a four-vehicle convoy headed to a second station when the convoy was hit with multiple explosively formed projectiles.

“It basically blew out the whole right back side of my lead truck,” she said.

Command Sergeant Major Curfman watched as the lead vehicle slowed down and veered off to the left side of the highway before it came to a stop. She knew something was horribly wrong in the vehicle, she said.

Command Sergeant Major Curfman said what drove her into action was the overwhelming feeling that “I wanted to get out and get to these Soldiers,” which was precisely what she did.

“Sergeant major, please stay in the truck,” was the last thing she heard before she exited the truck with her rifle. Even as the Soldiers implored her to stay in the vehicle, she knew they wouldn’t expect her to stay put.

“They know my personality,” Command Sergeant Major Curfman said.

Running up to the vehicle, Command Sergeant Major Curfman saw the passenger door swing open as one of her Soldiers stumbled out. He was injured, but walking and talking.

When she got to the inside of the Humvee, the situation inside was much worse. The driver’s arm had been severely injured, and the gunner had an injury to his leg that required immediate medical evacuation.

The right side door had been blown up in the explosion, and Command Sergeant Major Curfman had to maneuver herself to try and render aid to her gunner while holding the door closed to keep the vehicle secure in the ensuing melee.

The truck, meanwhile, was on fire and inoperable as a result of the blast and had to be attached to the lead vehicle to be towed to a nearby forward-operating base where they could medevac the wounded gunner. Command Sergeant Major Curfman stayed inside the vehicle to apply pressure to her Soldier’s wounded leg as the convoy raced down the highway.

“I think the only thing I was thinking was that I just couldn’t let this kid die,” she said. “I knew the injuries were bad … I never thought about any danger that I was in. I just knew ultimately that I had to get this guy to a hospital.”

The situation inside the Humvee was rapidly getting worse, and the amount of danger inside the vehicle was about to reach critical levels.

“The truck, because of the EFP, was already on fire. But it became engulfed in flames while we were in it – and it was full of ammunition,” Command Sergeant Major Curfman said. “I was attempting to grab anything … that was on fire and throw it out of the truck and, at the same time, beat out any fire that I could … and ammunition starting actually cooking off inside the truck.

“We knew that we had to stop that convoy and get out of that truck and get that wounded Soldier out of that truck, or none of us were going to make it,” she said. “Literally, there was ammunition just popping off all over. We had grenades in there.”

But with radio communication cut off from the explosion and no way for the lead truck to see her because of how they were being towed, Command Sergeant Major Curfman had to come up with a way to get the convoy to stop.

“We were getting smoke inhalation, and I decided to climb out onto the frame of the door and get the attention of the truck behind me to tell him that our truck was on fire and that we needed to stop the convoy,” she said. “That was a daunting task in itself. I’m in full body armor, I’m holding onto this kid’s leg, this door, and I’m climbing out on this door frame.”

But her plan worked, and she was able to get the attention of the vehicle behind her and stop the convoy. But it meant another stop in a combat area while trying to move the wounded Soldiers.

It was an incident that provided Command Sergeant Major Curfman’s security squad with some unique challenges. But they did their jobs, which allowed Command Sergeant Major Curfman to do hers.

The personal security squad she had hand-picked proved to be more than capable of fulfilling their duties, she said.

“You don’t know how you’re going to react until you’re in those situations, and my squad that day, they performed absolutely perfect, every single one of them,” she said. “The gunners stayed in their sectors, the sergeants took charge – while I’m running all over the place.”

Command Sergeant Major Curfman said she told her troops, “It’s very important when we’re out here travelling that I allow the squad leaders and team leaders to do their job because I have other things that I’m concerned about. But make no mistake about it, when an incident happens I am a sergeant in this convoy. I am a non-commissioned officer here, and oh, by the way, the senior one – I’m going to be involved, and I am going to take charge, just because that’s who I am.”

With assistance from another squad that had shown up to provide support, Command Sergeant Major Curfman and her squad were able to move the wounded Soldiers, get the convoy back to the FOB and get medical attention to the wounded Soldiers.

While the wounded gunner did end up losing his leg, Command Sergeant Major Curfman said she is proud that her squad was able to bring everyone home alive that day.

Command Sergeant Major Curfman’s abilities as a Soldier and as a leader were put to the test that day. She acted in a way that reflected honorably on her personal character and her values as a Soldier and NCO.

Command Sergeant Major Curfman, like many heroes before her, does not see herself as a hero. She sees herself as a Soldier and a leader.

“I just did what, honestly, every one of those Soldiers in that squad would have done,” she said.