A Marine intelligence officer was awarded the Navy’s highest award for noncombat valor in early September for rescuing an unconscious man trapped in a burning vehicle.
Capt. Thomas E. Haluska was presented with the Navy and Marine Corps Medal from Brig. Gen. Jay Bargeron, the commander of Marine Corps University, during a ceremony at the Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia.
Haluska, then a second lieutenant assigned to the Signals Intelligence Officer Course at Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center in Dam Neck, Virginia, was “instrumental” in saving the life of a man trapped in a burning car, according to an award citation.
The award citation was provided to Marine Corps Times from the the Marine Corps upon request.
On March 31, 2016, Haluska rushed toward a burning truck near the Topgolf entertainment venue in Virginia Beach, Virginia, “without hesitation," an award citation detailed.
Trapped inside the truck was a man unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning. Haluska tried to gain entry to the vehicle with his fists and then a weapon as white smoke turned to black and “fluid began to pool underneath the vehicle," the citation reads.
He assisted two others in finally breaking the window and entering the vehicle. He helped carry the man to safety and continued to monitor him as rescue crews arrived on scene.
“Haluska was instrumental in assisting an individual who likely would have perished if not for his life saving actions,” the citation reads.
Haluska is an 0206 signals intelligence officer and is currently attending the Expeditionary Warfare School aboard Quantico, Virginia, according to Lt. Sam Stephenson, a Marine spokesman.
The Expeditionary Warfare School is a 41-week course that trains company grade officers in warfighting and Marine air-ground task force operations.
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is a relatively rare award given for acts of heroism outside of conflict with enemy forces. The individual must have performed a lifesaving act “at the risk of one’s own life,” according to the Navy and Marine Corps awards manual.
The award is often awarded for heroic life-saving feats, but the awards manual notes that it is not a lifesaving medal.
“As the senior peacetime award for heroism, this award hinges on the actual level of personal “life threatening” risk experienced by the awardee,” the award manual reads.
Two Marines, Sgt. Austin Cox and Sgt. Michael Vura, were both awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for their lifesaving heroism during the mass shooting incident at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017.
The pair, both helicopter mechanics with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303 at Camp Pendleton, California, provided lifesaving aid to victims of the shooting.
The Associated Press reported that 58 were killed and nearly 1,000 wounded during the attack.
Another signals intelligence Marine, Sgt. Sean-Paul Donovan, a former 2nd Radio Battalion Marine, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal in May 2018, for his heroic feats in helping disarm a suicidal Marine.
When Donovan showed up to the house of a distressed junior Marine, he saw a loaded rifle, ammunition, alcohol bottles and the Marine armed with two semi-automatic pistols.
“It was just a shit show of a scene,” Donovan previously told Marine Corps Times.
Donovan eventually wrestled and disarmed the Marine. He was awarded the highest award for noncombat bravery at a ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in May 2017.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.