MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
Two Airmen assigned to the Kansas Air National Guard were in the right place at the right time, and had the right training to provided lifesaving assistance during separate emergency incidents.
“Before I knew it, the motorcyclist was T-boned with a direct hit.”
Airman 1st Class Olivia Wallace, emergency manager, 184th Civil Engineer Squadron, Kansas Air National Guard, Wichita, received the Kansas National Guard Distinguished Service Medal Dec. 22, 2020, for her quick reaction in saving a life.
On the way to an office dinner Oct. 3, 2020, she took a different route than planned and witnessed a major vehicle accident involving a motorcyclist and another vehicle.
“I remember seeing the motorcyclist coming towards me in the opposite lane of traffic and thinking that the car to the west of me was going extremely fast towards the stop sign,” said Wallace. “Before I knew it, the motorcyclist was T-boned with a direct hit.”
Wallace immediately jumped into action and assessed the scene. She first attended to the motorcyclist, who was in and out of consciousness with severe injuries.
“Everyone around me was chaotic, yelling about blood and trying to tell me what they saw,” said Wallace.
While attending to the motorcyclist, Wallace calmed the bystanders, and then directed them to call 911, remove keys from vehicles, and direct traffic.
“I’m just glad that I have a very calm and focused demeanor under pressure and was able to get them calmed down enough to assist me and follow my directions,” said Wallace.
First responders and paramedics quickly arrived and were able to take over the incident. Wallace recounted the details of the accident, injuries she treated and actions she took to the responders at the scene, who have since credited Wallace with saving the motorcycle driver’s life.
Airman 1st Class Olivia Wallace, middle, emergency manager, 184th Civil Engineer Squadron, and her father and mother. (Photo courtesy Airman 1st Class Olivia Wallace)
“My family seemed surprised when I told them everything,” said Wallace. “They told me they were very proud of me and thankful that I was there during the event and knew what to do.”
Wallace enlisted in 2019 and serves in a full-time capacity with the 184th Wing’s Inspector General’s Office and participates with emergency management during drill weekends.
Wallace said, “I am proud to not only serve in the world’s greatest Air Force, but as a member of the Kansas Air National Guard serving the great state of Kansas and the community of Wichita.”
Coming from a military lineage, Wallace is the first female in her family to serve. She is also the first to have received this award.
Wallace is not the first 184th Guardsmen to have saved a life while off duty.
“Once on his back, I could see slight gurgling in his mouth.”
In May 2019, Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Erskin, wing planning, 184th Headquarters, also received the Kansas National Guard Distinguished Service Medal for lifesaving actions.
Erskin was driving home late at night when she spotted something near the curb. With heavy rain making it difficult to see, she drove closer and discovered an older man who appeared unresponsive lying face down in the water.
“I immediately pulled over and called 911 to provide location information,” said Erskin.
Erskin ran up to the man and rolled him out of the puddle.
“Once on his back, I could see slight gurgling in his mouth reflecting off of my headlights,” said Erskin. “So I knew, at least, that he was alive.”
Erskin currently works as a full-time paramedic with Sedgwick County and has been in the military for over 10 years. At this time however, only days away from taking her state boards to become an EMT, Erskin put her training to use.
“I began implementing a painful stimulation technique – a sternal rub – in an attempt to rouse the man,” said Erskin “He did not respond immediately and, when I felt his carotid artery, his pulse was slow and inconsistent.
“I turned the man’s head to the side to start clearing the water and began chest compressions. After approximately 70 compressions, the man coughed aggressively and expelled the water in his airway.”
The man was taken to the local hospital and reunited with his family. The gentleman had dementia and it was likely that he wandered out of the house that night, tripped and stepped off of the curb, causing him to fall.
Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Erskin, second from right, wing planning, 184th Headquarters, with her family at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. (Photo courtesy Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Erskin)
Immediately after the man was taken to the hospital, Erskin called her dad and filled him in.
“He was extremely proud of me and word of the incident got around to all of my family,” said Erskin. “They repeatedly told me that if I was at all doubting my new career calling – that I had been given ‘my sign.’”
“He made a full recovery and enjoyed the next year and a half with his family until he passed peacefully at home,” said Erskin.
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