Army Reserve Soldier helped save lives during Pittsburgh synagogue shootings

By By Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe, USACAPOC(A) Public Affairs Officer | USACAPOC | Dec. 6, 2018

PITTSBURGH, Penn — An Army Reserve Soldier in his civilian capacity was among the police officers who responded to the Oct. 27 Pittsburgh synagogue shootings in which 11 people were killed.

Sgt. Michael Smidga was injured by the gunman, Michael Bowers, who faces 29 charges after entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pa., and going on a shooting rampage.

Michael Smidga and fellow officers Daniel Mead, Anthony Burke and Timothy Matson were injured by gunfire as they tried to stop the shooter.

Bowers eventually surrendered and FBI officials say police stopped further loss of life by keeping him from leaving the building.

Smidga, a patrol officer in the Pittsburgh Police Department since 2016, also is a psychological operations specialist in the Army Reserve’s 303rd Psychological Operations Company in the 16th PSYPOP Battalion.

In addition to his Army and police training, serving two tours in Iraq also helped him react to what was going on around him.

“I reacted from my training,” Smidga said. “The muscle memory actually works … It’s what I was trained to do.”

The most important thing about the incident to him was that lives were saved.

As a leader, this incident emphasized that Soldiers should maximize the value of their training.

“Trust your training,” he said. “Get everything out of it you can.”

The shooting was traumatic for the community, and many people have been grateful for what the officers did to stop any further loss of life, Smidga said.

Smidga and fellow offers got to meet the President Donald trump and first lady Melenia Trump when they visited during the aftermath of the shootings.

Officers also were honored by the community at the Penguins hockey game where they met Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and others.