Soldier whose arm was blown off fulfills dream of being police officer

Carlos Lugo

Forget the one-armed bandit- try the one-armed lawman.

A US Army veteran who lost his arm in Afghanistan has fulfilled his dream of becoming a police officer in a mountainous Idaho town.

Growing up poor and in a constant cycle of domestic violence in California, Carlos Lugo remembers wanting to be a police officer since he was 9 years of age, when an officer saved his mother from being attacked.

Enlisting in the military at 19, Lugos saw his first Afghan combat tour as an infantryman in the 101st Airborne Division.

“It was basic combat,” Lugo said about his first deployment. “Getting shot at, shooting back and running through villages.”

Re-enlisting in 2009, Lugo determined that he wanted to ride out his next stint in a support role, in hopes of avoiding an immediate deployment and putting more strain on his family life. Becoming a water treatment specialist, Lugo was redeployed a year later and found himself behind a gun once again.

Left to right: Officer Ryan Malone, Officer Taylor Hanson, Officer Tyler Anderson, Officer Carlos Lugo and Chief Marchand.

“Because of my prior infantry experience they put me in the gun truck for convoy security service,” Lugo said. “That’s how I ended up getting blown up on Aug. 24, 2011.”

Lugo was escorting local vehicles when his MRAP ran over around 400 pounds of explosives packed underneath cement.

“It was one of those things where you know IEDs happen a lot, but you’d never think it would happen to you,” he said. “It felt like a big magic hand went underneath the truck and lifted it. Then it rotated and kept rotating. The truck felt light and effortless.”

As soon as Lugo came to, he saw the carnage that had befallen him.

“My arm was just dangling like a dog with a limp leg,” Lugo said. “I saw blood on my boot and the bones sticking out and knew I needed a tourniquet.”

By the time he was medevaced, Lugo would learn he suffered a compound fracture in his left arm, two fractures in his back, a torn ACL and torn meniscus in his left knee, a hyper-extended left shoulder and permanent

Lugo’s arm would eventually be amputated below the elbow, resulting in his discharge. Not long after, he would end up in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

While he originally felt his dream of being a police officer. However, once he got a fairly physical civilian job, he determined that it was in fact possible to at least try for the police force. Going back to college, he caught the eye of Pocatello Police Captain Roger Schei, who said Lugo never struggled to keep up.

“Everything that we taught, he was able to do,” Schei said. “No matter what he was able to find a way. He never asked for special treatment or considerations, and he just figured out a way to get it done.”

Pocatello Police Chief Scott Marchand had similar praise for Lugo, though he admits he still had concerns.

“I talked to a lot of people before I offered him the job and I never heard one negative thing about his work ethic, his attitude or how he adjusted,” Marchand said. “I sat during one of the classroom experiences and afterwards I asked classmates about him and I never heard anyone say Carlos couldn’t do something. He just gets after it. It’s that simple. He doesn’t let anything hold him back and that’s refreshing.”

For 30-year-old Lugo, his six months on the police force are just the beginning.

“All I want to do is get the job done right,” Lugo told the Idaho State Journal. “No matter where you go or what you do there is going to be pros and cons to it. But it all depends on how you picture it. If you look for the bad stuff that’s all you’re going to get. If you look for the positive and the good out of it, no matter what situation you are in you’ll see it.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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