144th Fighter Wing Airmen Go Above and Beyond

  • Published
  • By SMSgt. Chris Drudge
  • 144 FW/PA
In the past few weeks, four members of the California Air National Guard's 144th Fighter Wing (FW) have demonstrated true heroism by coming to the rescue and ultimately saving the lives of three individuals. Citizen Airmen are not only leaders, wingmen and warriors, but also guardians and servants of the communities in which they work, play and live. These Airmen exemplify the Air Force ethos and embody the core values of integrity first; service before self; and excellence in all we do.

On January 27, 2012, Airmen 1st Class Tod Miley and David Hutchason, both Guardsmen with the 144th FW, were working at their civilian place of employment when they heard a car accident outside their building. They both saw a classic car crashed into a tree with an unresponsive elderly man slumped over in the front seat. At that time, both Airman acted instinctively and started administering self-aid and buddy care that they learned at the 144th FW. Airman Hutchason called 911 while Airman Miley laid the driver on the front seat and began to initiate CPR. Airman Hutchason stayed on the line with the 911 operator and was instructed to move the driver out of the car, while continuing chest compressions, and to lay him on the ground. They continued to provide aid until paramedics arrived. Airman Miley stated that, "It was definitely being in the right place at the right time, we were there, did what we had to do and then walked away when the paramedics took over. We didn't even know if he survived until much later when I received a call from someone at the 144th, telling us who this man was and that he had survived this accident," added Airman Miley.

Unbeknownst to them, the man the two Airmen had saved was retired Chief Master Sgt. Lawrence Pollastrini, who was on his way home from his civilian job at the 144th FW, when he suffered a heart attack. "It was a huge relief finding out that what we did actually saved a life," Airman 1st Class Hutchason said. Chief Pollastrini's wife, Kathy added that three cardiologists from the hospital had told her that he would not have survived the ordeal if Airmen Hutchason and Miley hadn't responded the way they did. A week after the accident Chief Pollastrini told the young Airmen, "You guys did a good thing, my grandkids really appreciate it."

Just before Christmas, another Airman from the 144th Maintenance Group was on vacation in San Diego, California. Staff Sgt. Scott Calhoun, an avionics specialist, was looking out at the bay and noticed something floating in the water. Without hesitation, Staff Sgt. Calhoun leaped over the fence railing and headed for the water. Staff Sgt. Calhoun yelled back at the crowd to call 911 as he entered the frigid water. He swam approximately 40 yards to reach the individual and did an initial assessment of the victim. "When I reached him, he was cold, blue and unresponsive. I grabbed him by his collar and pulled him back to shore," Staff Sgt. Calhoun stated. Once they reached the shore, Staff Sgt. Calhoun assessed the situation and administered first-aid and buddy care to the victim. "When I felt for a pulse, he spit up water and asked if he was in heaven," Staff Sgt. Calhoun said. He then treated the rescued man for hypothermia and shock by using sweatshirts from the on looking crowd and towels from the hotel pool. The emergency medical service arrived on scene and transported the individual to a local hospital for further observation and treatment. Staff Sgt. Calhoun credited his quick and calm reaction and self-aid and buddy care training, which he received as a member of the 144th FW and the Air National Guard, for knowing what to do in a life threatening situation.

Earlier in December, Senior Airman Richard Sorondo, a guardsman fire fighter with the 144th Civil Engineer Squadron and a full-time officer with the Fresno Police Department, was called to respond to an unresponsive victim. Upon arriving to the dispatched residence, Senior Airman Sorondo was flagged down by a neighbor, Thomas Hite, and was directed to the incapacitated individual. Apparently, the victim had fallen backwards off of his elevated porch on to the ground below where he remained until he was discovered by Mr. Hite. After initial assessment, Senior Airman Sorondo determined that the individual required CPR, so he and Mr. Hite initiated the life saving technique until paramedics arrived. Senior Airman Sorondo relied on the self-aid training instilled from the 144th FW and his police training to respond quickly and with appropriate action. The person whose life was saved is alive and well, thanks to the heroic actions of these two individuals.

All four of these Airmen belong to the California Air National Guard's 144th Fighter Wing and go above and beyond what is expected of them every day. They epitomize the core values of the Air Force, Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in All We Do.