Guardsman Puts Newly Acquired Training to Test
By Pfc. Heidi Kruger, JFHQ - Nebraska
/ Published July 22, 2011
Lincoln, Neb. -- Senior Airman Luis A. Zendejas-Garcia was driving home May 17 after completing Airman Leadership School where he learned management and leadership skills to be successful in his career. Little did he know he would have to put those newly used skills to work during that drive.
Zendejas-Garcia, a food operations journeyman assigned with the 155th Force Support Squadron was near the Wyoming-Nebraska border when he saw two cars in the left lane of Interstate-80. He was traveling about 50 feet behind them in the right lane. What happened next would test all the training Zendejas-Garcia has received in his military career.
"After one car cut off the other car and got control again, they were both driving normal," said Zendejas-Garcia. "One car swerved to the left and turned a hard right to get back on the road but after that the car went straight across the road, hit a bank and overturned."
As the other car continued, Zendejas-Garcia pulled over to try to offer help.
"I didn't know what to expect when I opened the door," said Zendejas-Garcia.
Inside the car he found a 78-year old male. Although the car was upside down he seemed to be okay.
"I made sure he was conscious and helped him situate himself in a more comfortable position," said Zendejas-Garcia. "I didn't want to move him much in case he had any injuries because he talked about some shoulder pain."
Finally the driver of the other car pulled over to see what was going on. It turned out to be a Navy Sailor on leave. The Sailor called the emergency services, while Zendejas-Garcia provided care to the driver.
"The emergency services told me to stabilize his head, so he wouldn't move it while the ambulance was on its way," said Zendejas-Garcia.
The ambulance came minutes later. The paramedics asked Zendejas-Garcia if he could help assist them even further.
All the training he's learned from his time in the Guard and the most recent leadership training from ALS helped him kick into high gear and do the right thing.
"Once we got him on the stretcher, everything went back to my Self-Aid Buddy Care training I learned," said Zendejas-Garcia. "The whole keeping someone conscious and making sure you don't move them if something hurts."
Self-Aid Buddy Care is training the Air Force has to complete at minimum every 24 months in order to learn basic life support and limb-saving techniques to help wounded or injured personnel survive in medical emergencies until medical help is available.
"I'm sure if I didn't have my Self-Aid Buddy Care training that I learned from being in the Guard I wouldn't have known what to do and probably would have tried to get him out of the car," said Zendejas-Garcia.
"I never thought I would have to use different Air Force training in the real world," added Zendejas-Garcia.
Conveniently for the man driving the crashed car the 155th FSS completed their Self-Aid Buddy Care training just two months prior to his accident and situations like this go a long way in validating the training.
"As a commander, it's great to see that the Airmen are learning from the training and are able to apply it whether that it is for the Guard or in their civilian life," said Capt. Pamelia J. Geistlinger, commander of 155th FSS.
"Airmen Garcia is a great influence and role model to the squadron," added Geistlinger. "He goes above and beyond whatever he is asked to do."
Even though Zendejas-Garcia wasn't in uniform when this all happened, he still felt a sense of pride for being in the military and using what he has been taught and said he was only doing what anyone else would do.
"I don't think with the way publishing is these days, this is very story worthy," said Zendejas-Garcia. "I was doing the right thing by stopping and helping someone."
And although Zendejas-Garcia is humble about his actions that day it could have been much different for the driver of that car if Zendejas-Garcia hadn't stopped to help. Zendejas-Garcia's military experience was evident to the first responders.
"It was a great honor to help this man out," said Zendejas-Garcia. "The paramedics and emergency service members could all tell I was in the military by the way I handled the situation and that made me feel great."