U.S. Navy Seabee Relies on 'Can Do' Attitude to Save a Girl’s Life in Nairobi

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U.S. Navy Seabee Petty Officer First Class Mark Pacheco on his hike up Mount Longonot in Kenya, July 8, 2017. Pacheco is assigned to the Engineering Service Center at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. (Photo courtesy of Mark Pacheco)
U.S. Navy Seabee Petty Officer First Class Mark Pacheco on his hike up Mount Longonot in Kenya, July 8, 2017. Pacheco is assigned to the Engineering Service Center at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. (Photo courtesy of Mark Pacheco)

U.S. Navy Seabee Relies on 'Can Do' Attitude to Save a Girl’s Life in Nairobi

Today marks the U.S. Navy’s 242nd birthday, and its Construction Battalions, the Seabees, have supported the State Department since 1965. They support Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) security engineering offices at diplomatic missions to install, repair, and maintain Department facilities and technical equipment such as closed-circuit TV cameras, alarm systems, electromagnetic door locks, and vehicle barriers.

However, the Seabees’ motto is “Can Do,” and they are known for tackling any task, which sometimes includes saving lives.

Just three months into his tour at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, Petty Officer First Class Mark Pacheco found himself relying on his knowledge, strength, and perseverance to save the life of a teenage girl.

Hiking with a co-worker on the 10-mile trail from the summit of Mount Longonot – an extinct volcano rising from the floor of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley – Pacheco saw a group of people surrounding a teenage girl who looked to be unconscious on the ground.

U.S. Navy Seabee Petty Officer First Class Mark Pacheco is part of the Engineering Service Center team at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

U.S. Navy Seabee Petty Officer First Class Mark Pacheco is part of the Engineering Service Center team at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Seabees support the Diplomatic Security Service by constructing, installing, renovating, maintaining, and repairing U.S. Department of State facilities worldwide. (State Department photo)

 “They had her lying in the sun with her head facing down a steep part of the trail,” said Pacheco. “I turned her so that her head was up and rolled her on to her side, which helped her to spit up and start breathing.”

The Kenyan girl, Jane, opened her eyes, and little by little, became more responsive.

Barely able to stand or even hold her head up, Jane was in no shape to finish the hike.

With few trees along the trail, very little shade, and the July temperatures rising, Pacheco knew he needed to get Jane out of the sun and get her additional medical attention.

Pacheco’s co-worker ran ahead to get help, but soon it became clear that help wasn’t coming fast enough.

To save this girl’s life, he needed to live up to the Seabee motto. Pacheco lifted Jane in his arms, and together they began their three-mile journey to the ranger’s station at the base of the mountain.

Step by step, Pacheco carried Jane almost the entire way to the ranger’s station. Racing against time and the hot Kenyan sun, he only stopped for short rests and to give Jane water. By the time the rangers were able to send a truck, the pair was 100 yards from their goal.

Jane received medical treatment at the station, and within a short time, she was able to walk on her own. 

“It just felt like the right, and only, thing to do,” said Pacheco. “It was just a natural reaction to the situation given my training. I’m sure anyone else in the Navy or with the same sort of training would have done the same thing.”

About the Author: Dayna Rowden serves in the Office of Public Affairs on the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.

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