NEWS | Aug. 12, 2014

Team effort saves wingman’s life

By Michaela Judge 628th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Note: Patient and family member's names are kept anonymous to for privacy.

The values and characteristics we hold most dear as a service and a military force are traits the Air Force's Honor Guard team not only fully embodies, but are also equally recognized as the standard for discipline and military professionalism.

At Joint Base Charleston, three base Honor Guard members recently exemplified these very standards when they responded without hesitation to a team member in immediate distress.

"I was returning from the restroom and I heard someone furiously honking their horn in the Charleston Club parking lot," Tech. Sgt. Vase Gilbert, 628th Communications Squadron quality assurance evaluator said. "My first thought was someone was a little ticked off right about now. As the horn kept blowing, I decided I would go to my car just to be sure everything was okay. I went out the door and started to give the person in the vehicle a really good stare down, but instead was greeted with a cry for help," Gilbert said.

The woman in the car quickly explained there was an individual in her car experiencing seizures.

Gilbert immediately called 9-1-1, but before he could begin to stabilize the patient, three members of the JB Charleston Honor Guard, led by Senior Airman Kendall Johnson, 437th Aerial Port Squadron and honor guardsman, were already at his side providing lifesaving support as a team.

The three Airmen had been in the Charleston Club practicing for an upcoming performance and heard the commotion outside and quickly ran to assist.

"Two heads are always better than one, and four hands are always better than two," said Senior Airman Joshua Kilburn, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and honor guardsman.

Responding as a team made it easier to assist Johnson, who began the initial steps to stabilize the individual in distress, Kilburn said.

Without hesitation, Johnson unbuckled the individual's seatbelt and began administering first aid, ensuring the patient's airway was clear, his breathing wasn't labored, and then stabilized the individual's neck while the seizure ran its course.

"The training we receive in the military really helped solidify what I'd had been taught a couple years ago by an EMT, when I encountered a similar situation with someone else having seizures," Johnson said.

As the individual began to stabilize, Airman 1st Class Michael Reeves, 628th ABW Public Affairs and honor guardsman, inquired into the health history of the patient to determine the danger and frequency of the seizures and maintained control of the surrounding environment, directing traffic so that Security Forces personnel and EMS could swiftly get on scene.

While Reeves and Johnson attended to the needs of the patient, Kilburn used a stop watch to monitor the patient's vital signs and relayed information to Gilbert who was passing the information transiting EMS members.

When EMS personnel arrived on the scene a few moments later, the team had the individual in a safe, resting position and stable for transit.

"The quick actions taken by these three troopers made the transition to EMS personnel seamless and flawless, but most of all, saved the life of one of our JB Charleston members," Gilbert said.

Colonel John Lamontagne, 437th Airlift Wing commander, said the quick response by team Charleston members is a great example of on the spot leadership.

"Airmen at all levels know they should jump in and intervene when something's not going well. Sometimes it's to shut down an inappropriate joke, but in this instance - they came to the physical rescue of our teammate. I am proud to be associated with such a proactive team," Lamontagne said.

"My previous experience and the Air Force training helped me that day," said Johnson. "More importantly, though, was demonstrating the power to act - it compels you to rise to the occasion, and that's what makes the Air Force better."

"I believe anyone with the training we had would have stepped in and helped. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time," Reeves said. "Always act, even if it ends up that you're not needed. By acting you just may be of service and can help somebody out."

The woman who was blowing the horn to attract attention turned out to be the grandmother of the patient and was extremely grateful for the help she received.

"I was very relieved to have someone to act so quickly! A great blessing for military personnel to help out my grandson!" she said.

And the patient from that day is also thankful for the help he received.

"I don't remember anything until the next day when I was told what happened," he said. "I was very glad there were people there to help, but not surprised because military personnel are trained to take care of people."

Recognizing the impact each person played that day, Col. Jeff DeVore, 628th Air Base Wing commander said, "What these folks did was awesome. They came to the side of a person in need and made a difference. I could not be more proud of their efforts and am honored to call them teammates. They embody the "serving all" attitude here at Joint Base Charleston."