Spc. James Cerqua, Pfc. Drew Coursey, Pfc. Troy Johnson and Spc. Sterling Meachamlane stopped to refuel and grab snacks as the work week ended. As they fueled up and went inside to pay, the soldiers noticed a man attempting to rob the store clerk.
“I was walking inside and saw a man aggressively waving his arms at Cerqua and the store clerk,” said Johnson. “Once we came inside, I asked him what was going on and tried to calm him down.”
As the other soldiers entered the store, the suspect attempted to flee. Cerqua and Johnson pursued the assailant and subdued him a short distance from the premises, recovering the stolen items.
“When my battle buddies took off after the guy, Meachamlane and I searched the store for any additional suspects and locked the door, to make sure the clerk was safe,” Coursey commented. “We told her to call the police and stood near the door as we waited for the police to arrive.”
As Johnson and Cerqua detained the assailant and recovered the purloined items, a second suspect approached. With the authorities en route, the soldiers complied with the man’s order to leave, but not before returning the items to the store clerk. After consoling the shaken employee, the soldiers left as the police arrived on scene, making an arrest.
“The El Paso community has always supported those of us in the Army here at Fort Bliss,” Command Sgt. Maj. Morgan Barnett of the 86th ESB noted. “This is just one example of our soldiers giving back to the community. We’re thankful for the hospitality El Pasoans extend to us as neighbors in this great community.”
The actions of these four men from the 86th ESB are evidence of the importance the Army places on being both soldier and civilian.
“Our weekly safety briefings are intended to ensure our soldiers know what the American people expect of them as members of this community, and how to act accordingly,” said Lt. Col. Keith Dawson, commander, 86th ESB. “Our men and women have a vested interest in El Paso being a safe community because this is our home and where we raise our families.
The soldiers involved are safe and back to work on post. The store clerk called the Alpha Company leadership and extended her gratitude for their soldiers’ role in thwarting the attempted robbery.
They were formally recognized on Thursday, May 29, and received the Army Commendation Medal. “These soldiers did the right thing and deserve to be recognized,” said Col. James Parks III, commander, 11th Signal Brigade. “Service members are both soldier and citizen. The acts of these men are commendable and we are proud of them.”