Five members of the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron came to the aid of a fellow passenger during a commercial flight from Okinawa to Tokyo Sept. 10, assisted by a flight attendant who translated for the crew and the Japanese national in distress, Capt. Andrew Jimenez, Senior Airman Joshua Egler, Capt. Geryn Lee Paguio, Senior Airman Deanna Adkins, and Staff Sgt. Elliot Sotnek administered oxygen, documented the symptoms and medical steps taken to aid the passenger, passed that information to medical providers on the ground, and even diagnosed the issue—apparent decompression sickness after scuba diving—which can be fatal. The aircraft diverted and made an emergency landing, and the passenger was transported to a medical facility. When asked how it felt to save a life, Egler said, “It’s a nice feeling, but it’s what all of us medics do. That’s why I became a medic, I wanted to help people, and it’s the reason I put this uniform on.”
Harry Fenstad, an 83-year-old USAF veteran, started offering water to cyclists in 2001 when he and his wife were building their dream home atop Sugar Loaf Mountain in Lake County, Fla. At first, he refused to take any payment for his act of kindness, but when cyclists began leaving money regardless, he started donating the funds to veteran’s groups, then mounted a donation box next to the watercoolers. Over the past 20 years, the former pilot has raised more than $50,000, and even as his 84th birthday approaches sees no reason to end his efforts.
Retired Col. Guion “Guy” Bluford Jr. received the 2021 Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Distinguished Alumnus Award during a ceremony at Penn State. Graduating in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, he commissioned through the university’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 720 program and went on to log over 5,100 as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, before being accepted into the NASA astronaut program in 1978. He became the first African American in space while a crew member aboard Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983.
On Sept. 1, Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. John Marks of the 442nd Fighter Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., became the only Airman ever to log 7,000 hours in the autocannon-toting A-10C Thunderbolt II attack plane. His resume boasts 13 combat deployments in multiple theaters of operations, and he said that the best part of his job is being able to “mentor and fly with the next generation of fighter pilots.” Marks’ story spans over three decades, beginning during the Cold War. He is well-known for destroying 23 Iraqi tanks in a trio of missions.
Rosemary Cook, the 97th OSS commander’s secretary and a Navajo Nation native, received a 2021 Society of American Indian Government Employees Military Meritorious Service Award, which honors military members, veterans, and Department of Defense employees who have risen above and beyond the mission and whose character best represents the core values of their military branch. Cook serves as her commander’s trusted representative, executing over 3,000 tasks and overseeing more than 140 additional duties. She is the “lifeblood” of the 97th OSS, said 97th AMW executive officer Capt. Caleb Egli.
Military spouse Jessica Saum knew students and staff had gathered in the Panther Arena at the Stagecoach Elementary School in Cabot, Ark., for a reading pep rally. What she didn’t know was she was also about to be announced as the 2022 Arkansas Teacher of the Year during a surprise celebration. Saum’s parents had flown in from South Carolina to be there and her husband, Lt. Col. Shane Saum, also recorded a special video for the ceremony since he is currently on a one-year unaccompanied assignment to Lajes Field, Azores, as the 65th Air Base Squadron commander.
1st Lt. Gabriel Houston, 786th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering chief, and his wife 1st Lt. Merrick Choate-Houston, 86th CES Installation Management Flight deputy, played key roles in Ramstein AB’s Afghanistan evacuation support operations. He created a plan to build a secure living area for tens of thousands of evacuees, designing the blueprint for pods that had to be built in a matter of days. She oversaw the transition of the sustainment of the pods to contractors, allowing Airmen to return to their primary missions. Now, they are working to reconstitute materials used in the pods and prepare the flight line for normal function.
On Aug. 18, Senior Airman Brian Chambers found his young daughter choking and drove her to the JBSA-Lackland Fire Station 1. Jacob Mathie, lead firefighter for the 502nd Air Base Wing at JBSA-Lackland, was able to perform first response triage and unblock the child’s airway. “I … was doing some laundry when a vehicle pulled up front,” Mathie said. “A gentleman jumps out of his car holding a blue, limp baby that’s not moving or breathing—he hands the baby to me and says, ‘Help me.’ … After about a set and a half of the Heimlich, I was able to get the hot dog out of her throat. I rubbed her chest to get her to breathe, and she started breathing.”
Master Sgt. Michael Fulton received AMC’s 2021 Gen. Robert “Dutch” Huyser Outstanding Aircrew Member Award, Boom Operator category, for sustained excellence in Airmanship. He was deployed to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, where he served as the 50th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron’s first sergeant, providing guidance on emergency and tactical procedures impacting operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel. He was also awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for actions that resulted in saving the life of a member, and his unit was recognized with the 2020 Senior Master Sgt. Albert Evans Outstanding Air Refueling Section Award.