Four Airmen recognized for life-saving efforts

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ciara M. Travis
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
With a shattered windshield, the crushed car sat in eerie silence. The smell of exploded airbags filled the air -- leaving a stench of burnt plastic and rubber.

On approach, the outward silence was swallowed by Spanish music blaring from the wrecked car's radio. If it were not for the music the silence of the scene would have lent a strange, almost movie-like quality to the reality of what four Airmen just witnessed, a car veer off the road and violently crash into two trees.

These are some of the memories Capt. Janice M. Pecua, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron; 2nd Lt. Danielle C. Pozun, 617th Air and Space Operations Center; 2nd Lt. Kelly E. Heinbaugh, 721st Aerial Port Squadron; and Staff Sgt. Lamar Wright, 86th Dental Squadron, have from Aug. 14.

"As we came up on the car, smoke rolled out from under the hood," said Lieutenant Pozun.

Without thinking, they followed their first instinct and went to save the victim.

Lieutenants Pozun and Heinbaugh, traveling together, were the first to arrive on the scene, followed closely behind by Sergeant Wright in his vehicle and Captain Pecua in hers.

Quickly they pulled the 43-year-old Army and Air Force Exchange Service employee out of her car and self aid and buddy care seemed to come naturally. They began cardiopulmonary resuscitation to keep the driver alive until the emergency medical technicians could arrive.

"I remember opening the drivers-side door, only to find that the driver had been knocked into the passenger seat," said Lieutenant Pozun.

As the Airmen worked diligently to save the woman in the car, the basic live-saving skills that were taught during their military career became essential.

"We pulled her out, checked her airway and started CPR -- all while trying to keep her spine and neck straight," said Captain Pecua, who happens to be a flight nurse who had just returned from a medical mission.

Although it was only moments before medical help arrived, time seemed to stop as they were working to keep the woman alive.

"I know it wasn't long, but it seemed like forever before help showed up," said Lieutenant Pozun. "First security forces showed up, followed by EMTs, and then the Polizei."

Today, nearly three months after the accident life has seemingly returned to normal for everyone but the five individuals involved. One knows her life has been saved because of four Airmen, and four Airmen whose lives have been changed simply because they did the right thing -- they stopped and helped a stranger in need.

The Airmen were recognized Nov. 8 at Heritage Hall by the Westfalz Polizei Headquarters in Kaiserslautern and Brig. Gen. Mark C. Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander, for their extraordinary life-saving efforts.

One of the great things about the military is that in addition to job skills, life-saving skills are also routinely taught regardless of job title.

"It is clear the work we do every day translates into our personal lives," said Col. Tamara Averett-Brauer, 86th AES commander. "The value of training is that it buys you precious seconds in a crisis situation and as with all crisis situations, you can never know when something out of the ordinary might happen. These Airmen were just on their way home, and their response saved someone's life."

These four individuals are the ones being honored, but it's important to note that it could have been almost anyone that witnessed the accident. The military is known for being a close-knit community that takes care of each other.

"I think it's amazing how many people stopped to make sure everything was okay," Lieutenant Pozun said. "There were people who stayed to direct traffic, because so many people were stopping to help. It showed a lot about our military and the people of Team Ramstein."