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Self-aid, buddy care training saves life

  • Published
  • By Maj. Denise Kerr
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Senior Airman Nathan Collett never thought he would be in a dangerous situation when he enlisted into the Air Force Reserve in October 2009. An 87th Aerial Port Squadron cargo processing flight traditional reservist, he loads and unloads the "bullets, beans and bodies" on C-130, C-17 and C-5 aircraft. He is also a sophomore at Columbus State studying construction management.

In March 2012, he volunteered to deploy to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, for a seven-month rotation.

"I was briefed after two weeks of being there that we had taken the most rockets in 24 hours than Kandahar had in the whole war," Collett said.

Collett was working his 12-hour shift in the passenger terminal on May 23 when a rocket blast blew the building doors inward. It was the beginning of the fighting season; the insurgents ramped up their artillery attacks to the airfield. With dust in the air, Collett ran out of the terminal to see a group of passengers look dazed and in shock. He directed them to the bunkers a short distance away. Collett noticed that a large container nearby most likely shielded the group from the shrapnel. He ran back and sent the passengers from inside a tent by the terminal to the bunkers for safety.

Collett turned around and saw a man lying on the ground, in pain and screaming. He and a contractor ran to to the man and assessed his injuries.

"I saw that shrapnel hit his chest and found another injury in his upper right buttocks," Collett said.

The contractor applied pressure while Collett tried to comfort and stabilize his head. An Army sergeant showed up with a first aid kit. Collett took off his shirt to put under the injured man's head, while the other two placed gauze on his wounds. Security forces radioed in for the paramedics and firefighters. More rockets continued to assault the airfield and Collett used his body to shield their patient from the potential impact.

The lone medic reached the site and stuck an IV in the injured man while Collett held the bag of fluid. They hoisted him on the gurney to take him to the clinic for recovery.

"Everything took about 4-5 minutes until the medics got there. We were still under threat of direct fire for another 10-15 minutes," Collett said.

"I think about it every day. I found out he was a contractor and ended up OK. It just made me expect and plan for a contingency. Luckily, I paid attention to the self-aid and buddy care course the two times I took it. I am glad it was mandatory to pre-deployment. I'm so glad I got the training I did from the 445th Airlift Wing."