Staff Sgt. Brian Guzman is the kind of guy who’d rather sit at the back of the room than be on a stage. He joined Army Special Forces to let his work speak for itself, not to get the public’s admiration.
He did his job so well – saving wounded comrades in combat and nurturing ties to cultivate rural medical clinics in Afghanistan – that he had to sit still, grin and accept a heap of praise Monday when he received honors as the Army’s Special Forces medic of the year.
“I didn’t like it one bit,” the Lacey resident laughed, describing a ceremony in which he received two medals and a pack of Army command coins.
Guzman, 35, stood out among the ranks of Army Green Berets across the country this year. The Army said he showed valor under fire in enemy engagements during his 2010-11 deployment to Afghanistan as well as a knack for navigating Afghan government bureaucracy to open clinics in the country’s Uruzgan province.
Those talents helped the Special Operators around him perform at their best, said senior Army officers.
“When you have a superior medic on your team like Sgt. Guzman, that exponentially lifts the team because they knew he improves their chances of survival,” said Col. Max Carpenter, deputy commander of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 1st Special Forces Group.
Guzman distinguished himself in combat Sept. 10, 2011, when an enemy bomb blew up a Humvee carrying four Afghan soldiers, partners of Guzman’s Special Forces Detachment.
Guzman cared for the three Afghans who were thrown from the vehicle, ignoring bursting ammunition to sustain the wounded men. A second bomb exploded about 33 feet from the one that took out the Humvee.
Guzman and his teammates then extracted the last wounded Afghan from the Humvee. He was on fire. Guzman cared for the wounded man on the hood of a Humvee, keeping him alive long enough to reach a medical evacuation team. This week, he received an Army commendation medal for valor for his actions that day.
To Guzman, that engagement sealed his partnership with the Afghan soldiers. “They would do anything for us,” he said.
In another instance on that deployment, Guzman risked his life to save two wounded American soldiers. He received his fourth Purple Heart on that tour.
He grew up in Alexandria, Va., and joined the Army in 1997. He was part of a team that treated injured men and women at the Pentagon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division in 2004-05.
Guzman started his move over to Special Forces in 2007 because he liked the idea of working in small, highly skilled teams.
In a deployed Special Forces detachment, “Your only support is your team,” he said. “You didn’t want to mess up. You just couldn’t afford it.”