Military News

Monday, September 14, 2015

Humble heroes of 352nd SOMXS rescue Mildenhall resident

by Senior Airman Victoria H. Taylor
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

9/10/2015 - RAF Mildenhall, England -- Saturday, August 15, 2015, started as every other normal day off for friends and 352nd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron co-workers Staff Sgts Scott Caldwell and Blake Broekhove.  As avid mountain bikers in their free time, they planned a trip to Chicksands Bike Park in Shefford, England, to spend the day away from aircraft grease and replace it with dust and dirt.

"We actually had a late start because [Broekhove] overslept," said Caldwell with a smirk directed at Broekhove.

The two were eager to hit the bike trails, but needed to fuel their vehicle and themselves before the hour-long journey began. As they made their way through the roads of residential Mildenhall, they both spotted an elderly man lying motionless on the pavement.

"At first, I saw two dogs hovering over him so I thought he had been attacked, but I really didn't know what happened-- I just knew something was wrong," said Caldwell. "We just did what I would hope anyone else would do."

Broekhove abruptly brought the car to a halt and they swiftly exited the vehicle racing to the man's unresponsive body which by that time was surrounded by three passers-by trying to gauge the situation.

"There was no thinking; everything just happened and we reacted," said Caldwell.

Just like that, Broekhove went into action, immediately directing one of the onlookers to dial 999 while he assessed the situation and simultaneously asked the injured man questions in the hope of getting a response.

"I checked his pulse and he had none; not only that, but he was cold," Broekhove said, shaking his head in disbelief. "I immediately thought the worst; I thought he was gone."

Even though they couldn't find a pulse, the two were not giving up. Instantly putting their military Self Aid Buddy Care skills to work, they began performing CPR; Broekhove giving the unconscious man chest compressions while Caldwell gave rescue breaths to survive.

"I was singing 'Staying Alive' in my head," Broekhove said with a smile while describing how he was able to keep the steady rate of approximately 100 compressions per minute. "And I will tell you from experience, it does work."

Constantly working to save his life, the two Airmen continued to desperately get a response, but the man was only able to reply with gasping breaths. They continued CPR for more than 15 minutes until paramedics arrived and instructed them to continue the life-saving task until their kit was prepared.

"Once the ambulance arrived, we tried to help them in any way we could," said Caldwell. "I was holding IV bags, fetching things out of the ambulance or just passing them equipment."

Eventually, a second ambulance arrived along with a few police cars and an Air Ambulance helicopter that landed in a field near the incident.

"Once the medics from the Air Ambulance arrived, they began getting the man on the stretcher to transport him to the helicopter," said Caldwell. "That's about the time that one of the police officers started to clear the area and we left."

After leaving the scene, the two kept their original plans and continued to the bike park.

"We were both pretty uneasy for the rest of the weekend," said Broekhove as he recalled the incident. "We didn't know if the man had made it or not. By the time we left, he was breathing on his own, but there was still that fear of not knowing."

Later, witnesses explained they saw the man coming around the corner on his bicycle when he collapsed, hitting his head on a concrete wall before falling to the pavement. A representative from the East of England Ambulance service who was also of the first responders on scene and wishes to stay anonyms explained that the man suffered a cardiac arrest causing his collapse.

"They did a fantastic job in performing life support until we arrived," said the paramedic. "When people see a medical emergency, it's easy to freeze up and be overwhelmed by the situation in front of them. However, [these two] stepped in to assist the ambulance crews [and helped save his life]."

With the worry of the victim's health still on their minds, the two Airmen sought out his family to learn of his good health and received multiple unexpected gifts of gratitude endless expressions of thanks for their heroic acts that day.

"Their actions showed courage," the paramedic added. "It was a real team effort between the U.S. Air Force personnel and the East of England Ambulance service crew."

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