MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
The afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, had progressed like any other weekday for Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Johnson, 908th Airlift Wing command and control specialist. Johnson, a Reserve Citizen Airman, had just finished his civilian day job as a network engineer for the U.S. Army, and was headed to his second job as a security guard at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. As the weather was accommodating, Johnson decided to save on gas and commute to work on his motorcycle.
Sometime after 2 p.m., while enjoying the ride into work, Johnson approached an intersection and noticed that the middle two lanes of traffic were not moving. He then maneuvered his motorcycle into the far-left lane and approached the traffic light when he observed two women standing behind a truck that had been struck from behind by another vehicle. As he stopped to get a better look, one of the women pointed into the second vehicle and began screaming, “She’s having a seizure! She’s having a seizure!”
Johnson quickly dismounted his motorcycle and made his way toward the women. When he got to the second vehicle he looked inside and saw the female driver slumped over the transmission shifter with her face down in the passenger seat cushion having convulsions. He attempted to open the door, but unfortunately the door was locked.
“My first thought was the possibility that the car could roll into the intersection,” he said. “Thankfully, the car was in idle and being held in place by the bumper of the white truck in front of her.”
Johnson instructed another individual to dial 9-1-1 and directed all within earshot to find him a blunt object which he could use to breach the window. One of the women from the truck provided a metal window scraper, which proved insufficient for the task. After about a minute of striking the window, a man produced a hammer and within a few seconds Johnson had created a big enough hole to reach in and unlock the door.
As Johnson pulled the woman from the vehicle, the other civilians had brought blankets and other materials and made a place to lay the driver down once out of the vehicle. Johnson laid the woman down and checked for breathing and a pulse, which were evident, but the woman was still unconscious.
The woman soon regained consciousness but was not coherent and could not answer any questions. Shortly thereafter, Huntsville Fire and Rescue and Huntsville Emergency Medical Services Incorporated arrived on-scene and took over care of the individual.
“It’s impossible to say what would have happened had (Johnson) and the others not stepped in to assist,” said a first responder (name withheld by request). “I can, however, imagine a couple of scenarios that could have turned out a lot worse.”
Johnson credits his military training and his part-time career in the Air Force Reserve with equipping him with the skills and attributes he drew upon during this incident.
“In my career field, I deal with a lot of medical and security emergencies and coordinating stressful situations with other emergency personnel in the field,” he said. “As such, we are trained to be cool headed so we can think. Getting upset, excited, or losing your bearing can risk an operation or even loss of life.”
Master Sgt. Mia Collins, 908 AW command post noncommissioned officer in charge and Johnson’s supervisor, is not surprised that he took control of the situation and helped guide it to a safe resolution.
“Johnson's heroic acts in this incident were not shocking to me at all,” she said. “A natural critical thinker, he’s always eager to take lead and lend a helping hand even when he's not sure of the outcome. We are trained to think quickly during incidents, accidents, and emergencies on and off installation: alert, direct, report. His heroic actions reflect our core value of service before self.”
Johnson doesn’t consider himself a hero by any means but is thankful he took his training seriously and advises other Airman also to take it seriously.
“I’d say if you encounter a situation like this or any other type of emergency, stay calm and be confident in your procedures. Just like how we practice during training, have the same attitude. Most of the time, people will be in shock or just not know what to do. Utilize them in some way to get external help just like the training states.”