As a former Special Forces soldier, sometimes you never see the final results of the hard work and sacrifice that you put into a mission. For Phil Melcher, a former medic in the 7th Special Forces Group, he met the results of a life-saving operation face-to-face.
Melcher had served all over Latin America but found himself in a very difficult dilemma while serving in Colombia. But as SF medics have done for the past 65 years, he found a way to save two lives and got a nice surprise much later.
Melcher, an Army Green Beret, was serving in the South American country when he was woken up at 2 a.m. to deliver a baby. When he got to the mother, the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. With no hospitals or modern technology available, Melcher had to perform the high-risk delivery without any help.
“When I delivered the child he wasn’t breathing,” Melcher said. “I had to resuscitate the baby and start CPR. After 45 seconds of CPR, the baby started coughing and screaming and spitting in my face. I was more excited about getting baby spit on me than at any other time in my life.”
Eight years later, Melcher was coming out of a commissary when a young boy ran into him. The boy’s mother yelled at the boy in Spanish, “Phillip, what are you doing?”
“And I looked and it was the mom and it was the kid,” Melcher said. “And I looked at her and she looked at me and we both started to cry and I’m like, ‘you named him after me?’ And she said yes, that she’s always told him about the man that helped him.”
He delivered 32 kids in some pretty extreme conditions. One of the other deliveries came to an indigenous tribe in Bolivia, where the baby was literally born on the jungle floor.
“I was a medic in the Special Forces before I became an operations and intel guy,” Melcher said. “In Special Forces you’re always a shooter first and you’re specialty is kind of a secondary thing, but you do whatever you need to do. Whenever a team goes into deployment, there are no doctors there. You’re the doctor.”
“The Special Forces medical course is unlike any other kind of medical training. It’s basically a cut down version of medical and physician’s assistant. You receive dentistry and animal husbandry training. It’s literally everything rolled up into one because you have to operate in any environment.”
Green Berets have to be as intelligent as they are physical. Melcher speaks three languages, helping him to fit into many cultures to operate seamlessly.
Melcher’s unit was assigned to Central and South America. His unit performed various peacekeeping operations, especially between Ecuador and Peru over Amazon River access. It also performed counter-narcotics operations, working against Pablo Escobar’s cartel.
Today he’s the Director of Security for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. “I have to make sure I’ve got everything scheduled right, making sure staffing and secondary support from city police is adequate at each game,” he said. “I make sure there are security checks around the stadium.”
And Melcher teaches Cyber Security as an Adjunct Professor at Webster University.
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Photo courtesy Phil Melcher