Military News

Thursday, August 19, 2010

McConnell Airman helps save 8-year-old's life

by Airman 1st Class Armando A. Schwier-Morales
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

8/19/2010 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFNS) -- A McConnell Air Force Base Airman saved an 8-year-old girl from drowning recently while on a canoeing trip with his church at the Buffalo River in Arkansas.

After spending the day navigating the river, Senior Airman Robert Fischer, a 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron pavements and equipment operator, and his group grounded their canoes on the river's banks near a bridge. Like many of the group Airmen Fischer went for a swim. While submerged, he heard Alexi Gardner's panicked screams, coming from shore.

"I popped my head up," Airman Fischer said. "I couldn't make out the sounds, but I looked over and saw Alexi struggling in panic next to the pillars of the bridge."

The river's current swept Alexi away from the shallows to the pillars of the bridge where the river gets much deeper. At the pillars, she began to panic and struggled to stay afloat.

"I was almost walking on water trying to run to her, it was too shallow to swim in the two feet of water with sandals, making it harder," he said. "Then I swam to her and was able to get her to where she could touch again."

Airman Fischer described the events humbly; however, his actions had a great impact.

"I am very grateful for what he did," said Stephanie Burton, Alexi's mother. "It was like 'Bam!' and he was next to her in no time, and for him to do that without hesitation is so wonderful."

After the rescue, Airman Fischer did not discuss it; his leadership did not know about his heroics. However, following a letter from the trip coordinator his commander and the 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander recognized Airman Fischer for his life-saving actions.

"Airman Fischer is a modest, but hard-working young man," said Maj. Paul Silas, the 22nd Civil Engineering Squadron commander. "He puts in more than 10 hours a day routinely with the other heavy equipment operators and never complains. The base benefits from his presence by the immense quantity of airfield, grounds and road work he and the heavy equipment shop do, but the community benefits as well, since he volunteers his free time in community service with his church."

To help Airmen stay prepared for nearly any contingency, Air Force officials offer a variety of courses, both in the field and computer based. He said his training helped prepare him for the rescue.

"I would say my training did help because when your adrenaline gets going you have to stay focused and my training helped me stay focused and accomplish the task without becoming a victim myself," he said.

He hopes to return to the river next year, hopefully without needing to battle the elements to rescue someone else, but if it calls "I am a ready Airman," he said.

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