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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Air Force Master Sgt. Lloyd Stinson was deployed to Ali Air Base in Iraq in February when he received the strangest call of his 17-year career as a firefighter.

Military police were reporting a camel stuck in a hole off base.

"We’re like, ‘What’s going on? Camel in a hole? Come on,’ " he said.

It was natural to be leery, said Stinson, a Granite Falls, Wash., native. First-responders such as firefighters and military police are targeted in combat zones, he said.

But when the confirmation call came in — there was indeed a camel stuck in a hole — Stinson and other firefighters responded. Because he serves as a fire inspector, he wasn’t actively involved in the rescue. Instead, he videotaped the scene and provided the footage to the public affairs office at Ali.

It made its way to CNN and, eventually, Animal Planet contacted the Air Force looking to do a story.

Last week, base personnel at Misawa filmed Stinson answering questions for a segment of Animal Planet’s "Untamed and Uncut."

"We scour through thousands of videos every week but when this clip fell in our hands we knew this was a special story that all of America would want to see," executive producer Vicki Johnson said in an e-mail response to Stars and Stripes.

She said the firefighters’ actions saved the camel and also assisted an Iraqi family.

"We always say our show is about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations, but this time it’s about extraordinary people who choose humanity over hostility," she said.

The run date for the episode has not been announced.

Stinson said he never thought the incident would garner this much attention.

He said when they responded to the scene, they found a baby camel about the size of a 100-pound Great Dane trapped in some sort of concrete plumbing pit. According to an Air Force news release from February, Staff Sgt. Bryan Senecal and Airman 1st Class Nicholas Gallagher climbed down into the 8- to 9-feet deep pit to tie ropes around the camel.

"It was very difficult, with it being a tight area, the camel not really wanting to cooperate, the guys never being around a camel," Stinson said. "So they didn’t want to hurt it, but they also knew time was of the essence to get it out of there."

Gallagher said the camel was continually moving its neck as they were trying to help it.

"I’ve never been around a baby camel before so I thought [its neck] was broken at first," he said.

"We tried to be as gentle as possible, but finally we had to just get down there and lift it up."

Stinson said he was glad to help the family.

After pulling the camel from the hole, firefighters washed it down and troops from the veterinary office gave it some shots, Stinson said.

With that, the family loaded the baby camel into a sack attached to the family’s bigger camel and went on their way.

"It’s neat because there’s so much negativity that comes out … you know, the news … out of Iraq," he said.

"It was nice to see that we were … able to do a really nice thing, a good story finally comes out."


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