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Courage under fire of teenage medic who saved life of sergeant
By Nick Britten
12:01AM BST 10 Aug 2006
A teenage medic is in line to become the first female soldier to be decorated for bravery in Iraq after saving her commander's life during a fierce gun battle.
Pte Michelle "Chuck" Norris, who is just 5ft tall, braved heavy sniper fire for three minutes when she climbed on top of a Warrior armoured vehicle to pull her sergeant to safety after he was wounded in the head.
One bullet from an AK47 rifle ripped through her rucksack as she came under fire from five different positions.
She said last night that the incident had "brought home" the reality of war to her.
"It was my first casualty since training, which was pretty scary," she said. "On arrival at the scene, we stopped and when I heard 'dings' off the Warrior, I thought it was stones.
"All of a sudden, the driver shouted down to me that my commander had been hit. I didn't know where he'd been shot and how bad it was at this stage.
"So I jumped out the back of the Warrior, climbed up on top of the turret, looked down and saw the extent of his injuries.
"I then heard the crack and a thump of a round going past my head. I was under fire from a sniper. Luckily it just missed me. We managed to cross the turret and get my commander into the back where one of the lads put a sweat rag over him.
"I got through and administered first aid, put a dressing on and checked his vital signs."
Her sergeant, who had been shot in the mouth, was later flown by helicopter to a military field hospital.
Pte Norris, 19, who is nicknamed Chuck after the film star, is attached to C Company, 1 Bn the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. She was part of a patrol in support of the Iraqi security forces in Al Amarah, in the Maysaan province, which came under attack while it was trying to recover a Warrior vehicle that had become stuck in a ditch.
Her commanding officer, Lt Col David Labouchere, is recommending her for a top award for gallantry.
He said: "Pte Norris acted completely selflessly and in the face of great danger concentrated on her job and saved someone else's life.
"She is part of a larger team, all of whom are acquitting themselves admirably when faced with danger."
Pte Norris's mother, Susan, 55, said her daughter had tried to make light of her heroics when she telephoned home after the incident.
Mrs Norris, from Stourbridge, West Mids, said: "I knew there had been an incident and I knew she was in a difficult situation but Michelle played it down.
"When I realised the full enormity of it I broke down and cried. It was a mix of horror that she could have died and pride over what she had done.
"I just thank God she is alive. I'm so proud of her. We are all very, very proud."
Mrs Norris said she and her husband Peter, 58, had not wanted their daughter - the youngest of their three children - to join up, but said they had supported her all the way.
Mr Norris said: "I'd prefer it if she was working in McDonald's or something like that but that wouldn't be Michelle.
"She gets on with all the lads out there. She's a bit of a ladette."
Mrs Norris added that when her daughter had described the incident, which happened in June, she said she was just "doing her job".
"She told me 'this is what I joined for'. She really gets on with her sergeant, who took her under his wing. She thinks he's brilliant.
"The sergeant's mum sent over a parcel with a thank you letter. That was a lovely touch.
"I'm so worried about her and I haven't slept properly since she went to Iraq.
"I gave up smoking for six weeks but when she went over to Iraq I started again.
"Michelle has always wanted to be in the Army since she was 11 when she joined the Cadets. It has always been something that has interested her. It really fascinated her.
"Michelle is just a down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky girl who would help anybody if she could.
"She keeps on saying, 'don't worry about me, mum', but I can't help it."
An MoD spokesman said: "Once the dust settles and her commanding officer puts in his citation of events, she may well be cited for an award."