AFMC Command News

Airmen recognized for lifesaving action

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks

It’s possible for the Air Force core value of “Service before self” to take on different meanings depending on the individual or situation.

The tenet calls for Airmen to place their professional duties over personal desires. This principle may be interpreted as the willingness of an individual to sacrifice his or her life in service of country. It may also be viewed as a call for Airmen to carry out their responsibilities with respect and integrity.

Perhaps, as Master Sgt. Oscar Vega and his wife Master Sgt. Jackie Wolfe recently demonstrated, the true definition of “Service before self” is simply helping someone in need.

For quickly coming to the aid of a fellow customer during a shopping outing this past spring, Vega, 746th Test Squadron superintendent, and Wolfe, Diagnostic and Therapeutic flight chief for the 49th Medical Support Squadron, were recognized with Air Force Achievement Medals. This medal is awarded to Air Force personnel for outstanding achievement or meritorious service rendered specifically on behalf of the Air Force. It may also be awarded for acts of courage.

The 746 TS, based at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., is a unit of the 704th Test Group, Arnold Engineering Development Complex.

After picking up a few items on the morning of April 18, Vega and Wolfe were preparing to leave Walmart in Alamogordo, New Mexico, which is located near Holloman AFB, where both have served for around the past year-and-a-half. On their way to checkout, Wolfe saw a man lying in one of the aisles. She stopped her husband to tell him that it looked as though someone had fallen.

“All I thought at the time I had seen it was, ‘We have to stop and see what is actually going on,’ because no one was doing anything when I noticed it,” Wolfe said.

It appeared the man, who was in his 70s and later identified as a veteran of the U.S. Marines, had struck the shelf as he fell, as there was some blood on the floor around his head. His face was beginning to turn purple. The man’s wife was attempting to resuscitate him.

“She was searching for a pulse when I saw her and she was smacking his face, saying, ‘Wake up,’” Wolfe said.

As soon as Wolfe told her husband about her observation, Vega handed their son off to his wife and jumped in to offer whatever assistance he could.

“When I got near, I could see all the blood and his wife blowing air into his mouth and yelling his name,” Vega said. “Once I saw how purple he was, I asked his wife to hold his head while I began compressions. Another customer who was on the phone with the paramedics let us know to continue doing compressions because the ambulance was running behind.”

Vega performed the compressions for around 7 minutes before Wolfe took over to relieve him. She also continued compressions for around 7 minutes, at which point emergency responders arrived on the scene.

To the relief of Vega and Wolfe, the man showed signs of life. According to Wolfe, he began to “gargle” just prior to emergency medical services arriving.

“After doing the compressions for a few minutes, he began to gasp,” Vega said. “EMS hooked up an AED [automated external defibrillator], found a heartbeat and began supplying air through an oxygen bottle.”

“We both hoped he was going to be all right, because you could see how upset his wife was and how much she just wanted him to get up,” Wolfe added.

Because of her work in the medical field, Wolfe has Basic Life Support certification which includes CPR training. Like other members of the military, Vega has received CPR training as well. Both are recertified on a regular basis.

Neither Vega nor Wolfe had previously needed to utilize their training in the lifesaving technique.

“I never thought I would ever be placed in a position where I would have to do CPR,” Vega said. “I am grateful that I had the training to help someone in a time of need.”

“I just think to myself if it had been my family member, I would have wanted someone to step up and help, even if it didn’t save them,” Wolfe said. “I’d rather someone try than not try at all.”