Soldier drew on Army skills to survive, protect others in Las Vegas shooting

Soldier drew on Army skills to survive, protect others in Las Vegas shooting

by James Brabenec
U.S. Army

FORT SILL, Okla. -- When the staccato sound of hundreds of rounds firing began, Nevada Army National Guard Pvt. Jacquelyn Trujillo ignored the comments of people around her who thought someone was shooting off fireworks or there was a problem with the speakers. Recognizing the sound of rifle fire, she quietly told her two younger sisters to leave the concert.

"I didn't want them to freak out or panic, we did it calmly," she said. "As we were approaching the exit, that's when everyone else started to realize that this wasn't fireworks."

Las Vegas Metro Police identified Stephen Paddock, 64, as the man who opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Oct. 1, killing 58 and injuring hundreds before taking his own life. Included in that number was another Nevada Army National Guard Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Charleston Hartfield, 34, of the 100th Quartermaster Company.

When the shooting started, Trujillo saw people dropping to take cover, others falling from gunshot wounds or tripping and getting trampled. She and her sisters found safety behind a wall, where they met fellow concert-goer Tammy Dean.

"They saved me," Dean told a KTNV 13 Action News reporter. "(Trujillo) really took care of us and kept us calm and she kept me from doing something stupid like going inside looking for family."

Trujillo, her sisters and Dean left the area escorted by an off-duty police officer. She then led the group to her brother's house near the concert. The entire family wasn't reunited until the following morning.

"Right now, I think I'm handling the situation better than the rest of my family," Trujillo said in an interview about a week after the shooting. "I am just thankful for my training and to know what to do in that situation."

Trujillo credited her basic combat training she took as a Split Option Soldier at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for helping her to lead others to safety.

"Probably what helped me to respond the best to what happened was being able to remain calm and recognize the noises (of rifle fire)," she said. "I remember hearing those sounds, or similar, when we had to low crawl or when we fired our weapons."

Trujillo, who graduated Aug. 18, from B Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, returned for her senior year of high school in Las Vegas, and is now a member of D Company, 3rd Battalion, 140th Security and Support Aviation Regiment. Looking back on her training at Fort Sill, she thanked all the drill sergeants here who helped teach her the ways of a Soldier, though she singled out one in particular.

"Drill Sergeant (Sgt.) Aubrey Lonsberry was my drill sergeant. It wasn't one specific thing she said that helped me the most, but just everything she taught us about the type of Soldier you want to be -- how to remain in control, how to stay calm and be Soldiers," she said.

Trujillo will attend advanced individual training next summer and become an aviation operations specialist with D Company. The unit flies and maintains the Nevada Army National Guard's six UH-72 Lakota aircraft. She plans to attend the University of Nevada - Las Vegas and become an officer.

Lonsberry said Trujillo's actions didn't surprise her.

"Private Trujillo consistently set herself apart from her fellow trainees by her high level of motivation and discipline. She brought good energy to our formation day in and day out. Her service was special to her, and it was clearly important to her that she learn and execute warrior tasks and battle drills correctly," she said.

Lonsberry added drill sergeants do their best to train up BCT Soldiers for all situations, but despite that, the outcome of what trainees will do is still uncertain.

"You see basic trainees make physical, mental, and emotional improvements over nine weeks and when they leave, all you can do is hope for the best," she said. "Private Trujillo showed that she can be relied upon by her country to answer the call whenever it may come. She also showed that consistently living up the Army values and applying BCT skills in tough situations can save lives."

As people process the outcome of this horrific episode in their lives, Trujillo said some call her a hero for doing what she did. She, instead, wants to be remembered in a different way: "I don't feel like a hero, I just feel like an American Soldier."

Editor's note: Tech. Sgt. Emerson Marcus, Nevada National Guard Public Affairs, contributed to this article.

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