Airmen awarded medals for heroism

  • Published
  • By Jasmine Porterfield
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
Three 96th Communications Squadron members put their Self Aid Buddy Care training to the test when a cable surveying assignment turned into a rescue mission earlier this year.

On Feb. 16, while returning to the base from a long day of locating and marking buried government communication cables off Highway 85, they witnessed a truck swerve off the road, flip and eject the driver. 

“We immediately pulled into the median and ran across traffic to help the victim,” said Senior Airman Kyle Belmares, one of the three 96th CS cable and antenna systems technicians. “The truck went up in flames, so I began to assess the victim’s injuries while the others battled the blaze.”

After dialing 911 and reporting the incident, Airman 1st Class Jaylyn Smith and Daniel Ledezma retrieved shovels from their truck and used them to control the rapidly spreading flames with dirt. In the meantime, Belmares relied on his SAIB training while tending to the initially unconscious victim.

“He [the victim] started going into shock,” said Belmares. “I assessed his injuries and tried to wake him, holding his hand and asking him to squeeze my fingers in response to my questions.”

When the victim came to, Belmares gauged his injuries through the victim’s grip and asking him to blink on command. Meanwhile, Smith and Ledezma had their hands full keeping 25-foot high flames from reaching overhead powerlines.

“It was pretty intense,” said Smith, who also serves on the Eglin Honor Guard. “If we didn’t have our shovels, I’m sure the fire would have caused severe damage.”

The trio continued for 20 minutes until emergency crews arrived. Smith moved on to help the crew get the gurney to the victim, load him onto it and into the ambulance.

The Airmen credit their SAIB training for their quick thinking and life-saving care. The mandatory training provides service members with skills to employ life-saving measures during emergencies while deployed or at home station.

“[SAIB] made us aware of what we were supposed to do,” said Smith. “The fact that we actually used it in a real-life scenario to help someone makes us really appreciate the training we get while we’re in the military.”

This wasn’t Belmares’ first time using SAIB in a real-world situation. In fact, his previous experience in October was eerily similar to this one.

“I was back in my hometown on my way to meet family for lunch when I saw a car veer and flip off the road,” he said. “I immediately turned around and helped the victim using what I learned in SAIB training.”

The Airmen were recognized for their heroism before their peers during a ceremony here June 20.

“It’s a great opportunity as a commander to be able to present medals for selfless acts of courage by [these service members] that fateful day,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Imperial, 96th CS commander. “With a disregard to their own safety, they came to the rescue of and provided life-saving aid to one of our public citizens.”

Belmares and Smith were awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal. Ledezma, who has since moved to another assignment, will be recognized with a command civilian award for valor at a later date.

For Belmares, the decision to help didn’t take a second thought.

“Life is short – anything can happen,” he said. “You can choose to be a person who stands around or the one who saves a life. If you were in that situation, you would want somebody to help you.”