EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
If you are around the military long enough, you will likely hear someone say something to the effect of “the military is 24/7.”
While many people might hear that and think it means the military is always working, it leans more to the idea that a service member can be called to action at any moment, as one 13th Fighter Generation Squadron Airman discovered when he responded to a vehicle accident involving a moose while heading into work during RED FLAG-Alaska 22-3 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Victor Hawkins, 13th FGS crew chief, was driving into work with several other Airmen he was carpooling with when they happened to see several vehicles pulled over to the side, whose drivers seemed to be helping a vehicle in the center median of the highway.
”I’m driving and we are coming up, about five minutes from base,” said Hawkins. “I look over and see a car in the center median. It looks like someone kind of drifted off into the center median. I see two cars on the right and another guy’s truck on the left on the other side of the road. It was about 4 in the morning, and I figured someone may have just had a night out and drifted into the median. I wasn’t going to stop because I thought it was just a drunk driver, and there were enough people there to help with a drunk driver who had drifted into the median.”
However, as Hawkins came closer to the accident, he noticed that the vehicle in the median had been greatly damaged, including losing its roof. Hawkins made the decision that he would stop and provide assistance.
“I pulled over to the side, got out and immediately ran over to the car, and there was a staff sergeant who was there,” said Hawkins. “He was already on the phone with 911. I asked him, ‘Sir, did you take any vitals or anything like that? Did you do anything to stabilize the patients that were in the car?’”
The staff sergeant hadn’t taken vitals. Being on a emergency medical services team for almost two years before joining the military, Hawkins relied on his previous experience and immediately introduced himself to the passenger and began taking vitals, in order to pass them along to the EMS responders when they arrived on scene.
The passenger had already been given a white towel to help control bleeding from his head, so Hawkins, with the help of Airman 1st Classes Seth Alderson, Nathan Tennant and Alysson Turner, also 13th FGS crew chiefs, made sure the passenger didn’t move too much to minimize any further damage in the case of a neck or spinal injury.
Hawkins noted that he was glad to have his EMS background, but the skills he used are not much different than what is taught to Airmen in Tactical Combat Casualty Care, which is why he also felt confident in directing his fellow Airmen to help stabilize the victims as the driver regained consciousness and he began his assessment of the second individual involved in the crash.
Shortly after, EMS responders arrived on scene and took over, so Hawkins started directing others to clear the scene, including himself as he continued into work that day.
In all, Hawkins thinks he was only on the scene for about 10 minutes, though it felt like he was there 20-30 minutes.
Hawkins continued his work of helping to generate and sustain large-force deployed air operations as part of RF-A 22-3, while giving little thought to his actions that day other than whether the two people involved were okay.
However, Hawkins’ leaders definitely gave it more thought and wanted to make sure he was recognized for his selfless behavior.
“I was not surprised. It’s just the type of person he is,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adrian Foster, 13th FGS flight line expediter. “He will always try to help where he can.”
In fact, Hawkins volunteered to come to RF-A 22-3, a realistic combat training exercise involving joint and multilateral partners, after having attended one of the Pacific Air Forces-sponsored exercises last year.
“My favorite part about being at RED FLAG(-Alaska) is the joint ops that we do with everybody,” said Hawkins. “Being able to work with everybody, like the Australians, the (U.S.) Marine Corps, the (U.S.) Navy and other F-16 families like Kunsan, and watch the mission come together is honestly what I love about it. In Japan, we are very limited in what we are allowed to do, so being able to watch the pilots be able to drop munitions and come back with smiles on their faces is awesome to see. It means that your hard work is being put to use, in an actual scenario where we are all working together.”
Throughout RF-A 22-3, Hawkins’ leaders have said he’s been doing an awesome job.
“He’s been working for me ever since he got (to Misawa Air Base) two years ago, and he’s always been reliable,” said Foster. “If I ever needed someone, he’d always be the guy to fill the spot; or if I ever asked him to do something, it would just definitely get done.”
In order to thank Hawkins, and other amazing performers, RF-A 22-3 leaders were able to organize incentive flights during some of the training sorties. As an added bonus for Hawkins, his leaders also presented him with the Department of the Air Force Air and Space Achievement Medal for his actions in providing and directing medical care to the car accident victims immediately after he landed from his incentive flight.
“I think it’s awesome (he received the decoration),” said Foster. “I’ve got no doubt in my mind that he would be one of the guys that would stop 10 times out of 10 to help anyone that needed it. He’s an awesome dude.”
Still, knowing Hawkins, his leaders gave him one more piece of good news: the medical team that responded to the accident told them the care Hawkins and his fellow Airmen provided to the victims that morning greatly increased their odds of survival.