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NEWS | Sept. 22, 2020

2 basic combat trainees stop suicide attempt, receive 'battlefield promotions'

By Fort Sill Tribune staff

Two basic combat trainees who stopped the suicide attempt of another trainee were given “on-the-spot” promotions during a ceremony Sept. 18 at Fort Sill.

Privates Carlos Fontanez and Ari Till, of A Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, were promoted to privates 2nd class outside battalion headquarters in front of 230 of their fellow trainees.

“It feels really good,” said Fontanez, 22, of his new rank. Till, 22, agreed.

Col. Daniel Blackmon, 434th Field Artillery Brigade commander, tacked the new ranks onto the trainees; and he addressed the battery.

He said awards are given for getting things done, but promotions are given to Soldiers because of the responsibility they have shown and the potential to achieve.

He said the trainees' promotion was similar to the old battlefield promotions where Soldiers were recognized for heroism in combat.

Fontanez, from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Till from Rochester, New York, had been in Basic Combat Training (BCT) for one week, when they stopped a battle-buddy from hanging himself Sept. 3, said Capt. Bianca Huntsman, A/1-19th FA commander.

She described Till and Fontanez’s actions as very inspiring.

“They saw something that was wrong, and they stepped up,” she said. “They lived the Army values of loyalty, personal courage, teamwork, and never leaving a fallen Soldier.”

Upon arrival at the 434th FA Brigade, trainees spend the first two weeks in classrooms learning about Army programs, procedures, as well as administration, Huntsman said. The training includes suicide prevention, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, and Equal Opportunity policies.

“Within the first 72 hours after getting off the bus trainees get a briefing about suicidal ideations, signs, and symptoms,” Huntsman said. Two weeks later they get additional suicide prevention training.

After their heroic actions, the two trainees received commanders coins of excellence from Lt. Col. Mark Larson, 1-19th FA commander. When Gen. Paul Funk, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command commander, heard about the trainees’ lifesaving efforts he authorized the promotions, Huntsman said.

Huntsman said the trainees’ actions have made an impact on the battery, battalion, brigade, and Fort Sill.

The fellow trainees are proud of Till and Fontanez’s intervention, Huntsman said.  “They’ve seen what teamwork can really do.”

After BCT, Till will get further training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to become an orthopedic specialist. Fontanez will get training at Fort Lee, Virginia, to become a heavy-load mechanic.

A/1-19th FA will graduate in November. The captain said the suicidal trainee is in a medical facility and is doing well. He is expected to eventually begin BCT.