GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- To some, Self-Aid and Buddy Care is just another training course but to others, it has meant life or death during their career. One Airman proves just how important this course was in last year's Hunt for Heroes parade tragic accident.
Master Sgt. Christopher Doggett has served in the Air Force since 1992. Throughout his career he has deployed supporting several missions. His first deployment was to Taszar, Hungary, supporting Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR. His second deployment was to Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia supporting Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. At Khobar Towers he was wounded by enemy forces and received the prestigious Purple Heart.
Many deployments later and many military awards earned, Doggett arrived at Goodfellow and is currently a military training leader.
Doggett was involved in the local Hunt for Heroes event, in which wounded veterans could participate in a hunting trip. After being chosen to participate, he and other veterans were brought together on Nov. 15, in Midland, Texas to participate in the Hunt for Heroes parade honoring all of the wounded veterans. The veterans would ride through the town on trailer floats pulled by trucks, while crowds of people attended, cheering them on.
"This was a very happy day celebrating wounded veterans from all deployed locations," said Doggett. But what should have been a happy event turned to tragedy.
The parade route included crossing railroad tracks, unexpectedly, a train was scheduled to travel through the town during the parade.
"My wife and I were on the first trailer in the parade and as we crossed the train tracks, we saw a train moving toward us. We began yelling at the second trailer," he said. "I jumped off the trailer in a very surreal moment; running toward the trailer, praying it was completely clear of the track. It unfortunately wasn't and that's when automatically, you're expected to go into battle mode."
With the second trailer, carrying veterans and their wives, hit, Doggett's military training kicked in. He and the other veterans immediately began to help those injured.
"My first thoughts were to clear out the wives to keep them from seeing things they weren't prepared to see," said Doggett. "I'm not sure anyone can be prepared for such a sight though. After I checked on numerous people that were at first look uninjured, I saw a woman with a leg missing and two men starting to work on her, providing CPR."
Doggett's SABC training then came to the forefront of his mind.
"I asked the woman behind me for her belt to apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding," he said "We all counted chest compressions and after a few cycles she began to breathe."
The train had stopped moving, but it took time for the paramedics to respond because of the blocked roads. The uninjured veterans from each float used their military training to help each injured person as best they could.
"As I stood there and looked at the destruction that had happened, you could see that each member was being attended to by at least one of the military members on the floats," said Doggett. "Everyone did exactly as they were supposed to do and provided SABC; without the training we receive and the scenarios we go through more lives could have and would have been lost."
Although many lives were saved, four lives were lost during the accident; four veterans who had pushed their wives off the float just in time to save them from being a casualty.
"Four great men lost their lives that day. They to me are the heroes of this situation," said Doggett. "They pushed their wives to safety before impact, again spilling their blood for U.S. citizens."
Doggett's involvement, as well as the other veteran's, proves how important it is for military members to take their SABC training seriously and learn as much as possible. The lessons taught in training are not only essential in the field, but here at home.
Doggett and his wife continue to help those involved with the Hunt for Heroes tragedy. Thomas and Kelli Pleyo were both on the trailer that was struck. Thomas was able to get Kelli and himself off the float, but Kelli was seriously injured from the fall.
Kelli has already undergone one surgery and will need to have another surgery to help with injuries from the incident.
"We have a long road to recovery and she has kept a very good attitude throughout this whole ordeal," said Thomas Pleyo, retired Army sergeant.
Doggett and his wife started a fundraiser in which all proceeds will go to help the Pleyo family with doctor bills and other expenses.
For his bravery in the accident, Doggett has received various recognitions.
He was selected as the Air Education and Training Command winner of the 2013 Noncommissioned Officers Association Vanguard Award. This award recognizes enlisted members who have performed a heroic act, on or off duty, which resulted in the saving of life or the prevention of serious injury. The act must be a voluntary action initiated by the nominee and not a result of directions or orders.
Doggett was also awarded his fifth Air Force Commendation Medal for his outstanding achievement. Had Doggett, along with the other helping veterans, not been there, many more lives could have been lost.