A female soldier who single-handedly rescued victims of the Al Shabaab attack in Manda Bay Camp Simba, Lamu County on January 5, 2020, has received a coveted award in the US Air Force.
Soldier Colleen Mitchell’s quick thinking, courage, and commitment on that fateful day has rightfully earned her a coveted place in the Department of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year programme. The programme is ranked among the highest awards to outstanding servicemen and women.
She received the news of her fete with a lot of surprises as she thought what she did to save lives was just a simple act of courage.
“I blacked out, I had no idea it would be happening,” she said. “They were so proud of me, and they had to say it a couple of times before it clicked.”
The female soldier faced a monumental challenge when the attackers raided their camp with a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG), attacking a US surveillance plane.
The attack claimed the lives of two American contractors and one soldier in an operation that also involved the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF).
Recalling the event that followed the attack, Collen stated that she was not scared of what to do, she knew what was expected of her to rescue the victims.
“I wasn’t panicking about what to do,” Mitchell recounted. “I knew what I needed, where it was going to, and how it was supposed to look, which was more comforting than one would think.”
“With the airfield under attack, we knew we were on our own,” Mitchell recalled. Soon, additional medical assets arrived to initiate care, followed by fire personnel who Mitchell had previously trained as medical support staff.
Mitchell now currently serves as an Air Force District of Washington Air Force Element Member at the Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, Maryland.
She says the attack changed how the US view the Al Shabaab terror group.
“It was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had in terms of the provider and patient relationship because we all learned to know each other so well,” Mitchell said.
“The attack highlighted our strengths and exposed our weaknesses, forcing us to re-assess our medical capabilities, and that upbeat in battle rhythm rippled across the camp, creating continuous training and the arrival of additional personnel after the attack.”
With her sights now set on applying for the Air Force’s nursing enlisted commissioning program as she continues her academic studies as a part-time student, Mitchell reflected on what propelled her to success then and will do so in the future.
“I took home the importance of team,” Mitchell said. “From the moment I arrived on camp, I was never alone — we trained, laughed, and cried with each other.”