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Airmen uses military training to save nephew’s life

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Curtis, an Aviator assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard's 178th Wing in Springfield, Ohio, poses for a self-portrait with his nephew during a flight on his personal plane. He credited the training and job competencies he has learned in the Ohio Air National Guard for saving his nephew's life. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Curtis, an Aviator assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard's 178th Wing in Springfield, Ohio, poses for a self-portrait with his nephew during a flight on his personal plane. He credited the training and job competencies he has learned in the Ohio Air National Guard for saving his nephew's life. (Courtesy photo)

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio -- Airmen train for all possibilities. From weapons training to cultural competencies and medical skills, Airmen’s skills reach beyond their specific career field in order to accomplish their mission. The benefits of these skills often transfer outside the military into civilian life. For Tech. Sgt. Joshua Curtis, 178th Wing Career Enlisted Aviator, the lifesaving skills he learned in the Ohio Air National Guard helped him save his nephew’s life.

“I am a civilian pilot and took my nephew Ely, who loves flying, with me,” said Curtis.

This outing, on Oct. 17th, 2021, lead the pair to land at different airport for lunch. The sunny afternoon lunch quickly turned dark when Curtis recognized that his nephew was in distress.

“We got our food and not five-minutes into eating, I looked over and noticed my nephew grabbing at his neck and gasping for air,” said Curtis. “I immediately jumped up, ran over and yanked him out of his seat and started performing the Heimlich maneuver.”

The lifesaving maneuver didn’t work on the first or second attempt.

“After about the fourth attempt, the food that was blocking his airway finally came out and he was able to breathe again,” said Curtis. “I give credit to God and my training in the Air Force for the skills to act swiftly.”

Curtis credited the training and job competencies he has learned in the Ohio Air National Guard for his quick action.

“As far as specific training that helped in this situation, in my current job I have to perform in a high stress and intense environment at times,” said Curtis. “We have to make quick and accurate decisions without hesitation. The CPR and Heimlich training I received from Master Sgt. Sara Mattern a few years back also played a pivotal role. I hope I never have to perform the Heimlich maneuver again, but I'm glad I have the skills to do so if needed.”

In the end, Curtis and his nephew made their return flight home safely because of his quick response. And the two were not the only ones grateful for his lifesaving actions.

“When they got back, Ely had approached me and told me that he had choked on a piece of bacon that was on his cheeseburger,” said Rachelle Mustard, Ely’s mother. “Ely stated that Josh saved his life. All I could think was thank god that Josh is well trained and saved my sons life that day.”