Incirlik Airman saves friend's life 6,000 miles away

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. David Liapis
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Most Airmen have accomplished computer-based suicide prevention training and are familiar with the "typical" scenario - a bold Airman asking the right questions to someone who isn't acting "right." In these training modules, the interaction is almost always in person, face-to-face. But, as one Incirlik Airman recently learned, this is not always the way it happens.

Staff Sgt. Leilani Bass, 39th Aerospace Medical service technician, was recently on a video-conference call with her best friend from a state-side Air Force base when she knew something wasn't right. Based on conversations during a recent visit with her friend and what she heard and saw that night, she knew she had to take action. Of course, being more than 6,000 miles away, there was not much she could do except talk to her friend ... and someone else.

"When I saw the gun, I thought, 'this is real,'" said Bass. "I picked up a DSN phone while keeping my friend on Face time and dialed zero."

Even though Bass ran into difficulties getting connected with the right people, her persistence paid off and she was eventually connected with the 9-1-1 dispatcher in her friend's local area. Meanwhile, the situation was intensifying.

"She held up the gun and told me to tell her I love her and then to hang up," said Bass. "I told her, 'No way. That's not going to happen.' It was then she chambered a round and made sure I could see the bullet load. Then she hung up."

Bass made multiple failed attempts to reconnect with her friend, desperately wanting to know if she was OK. Unable to do anything but wait and hope, she called her friend's mom and let her know what was going on. She then called the dispatcher back and asked for an update. She was instructed to wait 20 minutes and then call her friend's mother to get details.

Distraught and feeling powerless, Bass anxiously counted the seconds as the 20 minutes passed. During that time, her friend answered a call from her mother and remained on the line with her until the police arrived.

Once Bass was able to speak with the mother, she was relieved to learn her friend was found unharmed and that she was taken to a hospital. The mother was in shock, but was able to voice her gratitude to Bass.

"She said, 'You saved her life. Thank you," said Bass.

Bass' friend called her not long after that night to thank her for helping save her life.

What started out as a typical video-conference call to a friend turned into a dramatic life-saving event because Bass was determined not to let distance or lack of courage prevent her from taking the necessary steps to save her friend's life. It was obvious something was wrong, and she had the courage to do something about it.

"General Breedlove, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, has asked all Airmen to be 'sensors,' which means to be proactive about preventing suicide," said Chief Master Sgt. Nancy Judge, 39th Air Base Wing command chief. "Sergeant Bass did just that, and now she is more than just a perfect example of a sensor, she's a hero!"

Bass may be a true hero, but she admits she has been through times in her life when she thought it would be better not to go on. However, she reached out in her times of need and found friends and mental health professionals who cared for her and helped her through.

"Asking for help is not a weakness. It's a strength," stated Bass. "You've got to be able to admit you need help, and that takes strength."

Editor's note: If you or someone you know is thinking about hurting yourself or others, help is available. Contact Mental Health, a chaplain, Family Advocacy or someone in your chain of command today. You can find helpful resources on your base's Resiliency Webpage or the Air Force's suicide prevention Webpage.