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Command under pressure

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Noah Tancer
  • 378th Air Expeditionary Wing

Service members stand anxiously waiting in a holding area of a foreign land. They've reached a rest stop on their way to the U.S. Air Force Central Command’s theater of operations. Although some are nervous, the atmosphere is tranquil. That is of course until a sound like a helmet hitting the ground breaks the atmosphere.

“On our way from the states to the Middle East, we stopped for fuel in Europe,” said Maj. Ben Marshall, a contracting office representative with the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron. “During that time, one of our young Airmen was standing up and suddenly started having a seizure.

Whether it be from stress, dehydration or any number of other reasons, an Airman now laid seizing on the floor with a laceration on their head. Something needed to be done and someone needed to do it.

“Once the Airman fell, someone approached me as I was one of the few officers on the rotator over,” said Marshall. “I hustled over to see six to seven people providing immediate care and about 50 people watching. One wingman took off his shirt to wrap around the seizing Airman’s head, which ended up full of blood. Immediately I asked who was working on calling for an ambulance.”

With their focus and concern on their wingman laying in front of them, no one in the crowd thought to make a call until questioned.

“Myself, another major and the troop commander, started reaching out to the nearest Command Post to arrange care,” said Marshall. “Kudos to basically the entire team. Within a minute we had a DSN, a commercial number, and ‘try this one if that one doesn’t work.’ It was very quick.”

The Air Force system is primed in the event of a casualty and the necessary notifications for the supervisor and leadership happen quickly upon notification to a Command Post.

People were moved away from the scene to reduce onlookers and manage space. Then a Wingman was arranged to go with the Airman to the hospital and provide constant communications with the Command Post and supervisors.

“The coolest email I got to see was a report that the Airman was able to get treated quickly and is expected to complete their deployment,” said Marshall. “Seeing someone not only live through that, but continue on is a testament to quick response timelines, and getting quick medical care.”

The world needs people like Marshall and his wingmen. When injuries or incidents occur in a crowd, a phenomenon called the ‘bystander effect’ is common. Without a voice of command to break the effect, people in a crowd may assume someone else more qualified will take action, they’ll only get in the way, or they will just wait for help.

This story has a positive outcome due to Airmen with basic medical training being present to quickly address the injury and a voice of command like Marshall and the other officers.

“I encourage everyone to seek out medical training now, even a basic CPR class,” advised Marshall. “If you need it, it will be too late to go get it. I have a friend who saved her mom’s life when she collapsed at dinner one night. By having training and quickly moving into action she was able to provide medical care to her mom.”

Maj. Ben Marshall was coined by Brig. Gen. Robert Davis, the previous commander of the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing, for his ability to lead under pressure as he assisted with a serious medical emergency en route to the Ninth Air Force's area of responsibility.