LAS VEGAS -- Three noncommissioned officers were awarded the U.S. Air Force Achievement Medal during a ceremony Jan. 31 for their quick reactions that saved the life of a stranger at McCarren International Airport earlier in the month.
Staff Sgt. Brent Olson, military working dog instructor with the 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron, was in the baggage claim area at the airport Jan. 6 waiting to receive students as they arrived when a businessman collapsed 15 feet away.
"I saw him hit the ground and heard someone say medic," said Olson who reacted quickly and was beside the prone man. "I just ran over there and tried to steady him through his seizure. When his seizure ended, I checked his pulse."
Not far away, Tech. Sgt. Pedro Guerrero, kennel master trainer student, and Staff Sgt. Donald Nachand, military working dog handler student, were waiting in line for their baggage talking about their upcoming training for class when a civilian ran up and asked if they were medics.
They ran to the scene and found Olson, who said there was no pulse and the businessman wasn't breathing. They quickly got into positions to begin CPR chest compressions. Guerrero supported the man's head while Nachand and Olson were at the man's sides. With minimal communication, the Airmen worked together to re-position the man's body to facilitate his breathing.
"Everyone just took their spots. We all did it together," said Nachand who is a military working dog handler assigned to the 96th Security Forces Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
"It wasn't like [Olson] was telling me what to do or I was telling him what to do," said Guerrero, who is a flight sergeant assigned to the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, Hulburt Field, Fla. "We just did what we needed to do. We kept communicating throughout the whole time. We were a team. It just happened."
After a minute of CPR, the man's pulse returned but he remained unresponsive and was struggling to breathe. For several minutes the Airmen worked to stabilize his breathing.
"After five minutes, he started to come to but he didn't have his senses and that's when he started fighting," Guerrero said. "He wasn't coherent of what he was doing. He was screaming and biting his tongue."
I took Olson, Nachand, Guerrero and two airport police officers to steady the man's head, arms and legs so he wouldn't hurt himself more.
After the paramedics arrived, the three NCOs continued to assist emergency medical technicians who administered medication to sedate the man's struggling. Once the situation was under control, they gave their names to the police and headed to the squadron for training. It wasn't until a few days later they learned the man was recovering and that civilian first responders determined their actions were critical to saving the man's life.
"It didn't hit me that day, but later I realized that he could have died," said Guerrero, who now plans to become a certified CPR instructor. "I want to tell others that 'one day someone is going to come to you because you wear the uniform and say someone needs help. I wouldn't want anyone to have the burden to think 'this guy died in my hands.'"