Leading Seaman Patrick Moulden digs in the dirt of a well-worn footpath to unearth a homemade bomb that he must defuse with only his bare hands.
There is no time to call in his bomb disposal team or even don his protective suit.
Moulden, a navy clearance diver from CFB Esquimalt’s Fleet Diving Unit, must work quickly so that a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter can safely land and transport wounded soldier Pte. Brock Blaszczyk to the Kandahar Airfield camp in Afghanistan.
Minutes before, Blaszczyk stepped on an improvised explosive device on the same footpath. One of his legs just above the knee was vaporized, the other is in tatters. “What that meant for me as an IED operator, if I don’t act immediately, threat to human life is imminent, and so risk to the operator’s life is acceptable in that case,” Moulden said, recalling the most dangerous moment of his eight-month tour to the war-torn nation in 2009-10.
“It’s called hand dismantle – I take the thing apart by hand and take whatever risk was necessary because he was going to die if I didn’t,” the Victoria resident said.
Thirty seconds after Moulden dismantles the bomb, the chopper lands and whisks the injured solider to hospital.
“Not only were they able to save his life, they were able to reattach one of his legs,” Moulden said. Today, Blaszczyk is a corporal at CFB Edmonton.
For Moulden’s heroics on April 3, 2010, he was presented a Medal of Bravery by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Friday. Moulden was among 36 Medal of Bravery recipients, including navy Lt. André Bard, also from Victoria.
The medals were created in 1972 to recognize acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances.
Bard will never forget being called out by the RCMP to comb the depths of a pond in Stewiacke, N.S. in 2009 for a live grenade.
“(We were) basically sticking our hands deep in the mud every time the metal detector went off, and fishing out whatever we could find,” said Bard, today the operations officer of CFB Esquimalt’s Fleet Diving Unit. “If we stepped on it, or mishandled it, then things could have been bad, but you don’t think about stuff like that when you’re doing it.”
Bard’s dive partner, Leading Seaman David Denman of Shearwater, N.S., who received his Medal of Bravery in February, found the grenade near the shoreline. “When we disposed of it, it made a bigger explosion than half a block of C4 (plastic explosive) would have. So then I realized ... it could have gone bad,” Bard said.
During his speech, Johnston applauded the medal recipients for their instinct “to care and to save.”
“Your character stands revealed to us, and it is a portrait of the very best of the smart and caring Canadian.”
Bard and Moulden say they were just doing their jobs.
“If somebody else had drained that pond ... they could have set it off,” Bard said.
“I’m glad that I was able to pull it together and react the way that I did, because if I didn’t (Blaszczyk) might not have made it,” Moulden said.