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Four Airmen save contractor’s life

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- On April 15, four Airmen saved a contractor’s life on the loading dock of their building utilizing their annual Air Force CPR training.

Their training was put to the test when Senior Airman Crystal Morgan, 1st Special Operations Maintenance Operations Squadron, made a shocking discovery – Richard Owens, a contractor within their building, had collapsed from a heart attack and was lying unresponsive.

“I couldn't believe it was real. For a moment, I swear it must have been an exercise,” said Morgan. “I ran over to him and he wasn't responding. I could see his eyes turning red and his face turning red. I tried to move his body on my own to start CPR, but he was really heavy and I didn't want to hurt him or have my efforts be ineffective.”

The next noises out of her mouth were desperate cries, blood curdling screams, pleading for help from anyone who could hear.

Staff Sgt. Robert Southwell, 1st SOMOS, heard the cries and ran to see what the commotion was about. He found a distraught Morgan and a serious situation.

Southwell accessed assessed the circumstances, took Owens’ pulse and ran through a mental checklist of what to do.

“I went running out there and saw Mr. Owens laying there. I shook him and attempted to check for a pulse. I could tell he was not ok,” said Southwell. “He was pale, his eyes were grey and he looked like he was…in bad shape. My only thought was to grab an [automated external defibrillator] like they taught us in training.”

On his way into the building to find the AED, he passed Staff Sgt. Josiah Chakerian, 1st SOMOS, who had also heard Morgan’s cries for help.

Chakerian ran outside, saw Mr. Owens on the ground, ripped off the contractor’s shirt and started doing sets of 30 compressions.

“I was doing compressions for what seemed like 30 minutes, but in all actuality it was only about four minutes,” said Chakerian. “It seemed like time had slowed down and everything was taking forever.”

At this time, Master Sgt. Carlos Crasta, 1st SOMOS, stumbled upon the situation after returning from lunch.

“I said ‘I’m here to help’ and moved in to give Chakerian a break,” said Crasta. “I started my compressions and in the process I could hear ribs starting to crack.”

Southwell returned with the AED, hooked up the pads and listened to the machine go through the prompts and began to shock him.

After 15 minutes of constant chest compressions, regulated breaths and shocks with the defibrillator, medical personnel arrived on scene to transport Owens to the hospital.

According to Chakerian, medical professionals told the team that their work was the only thing that kept him alive until they arrived.

“I don’t feel like a hero, I just feel like we were in the right place at the right time. For four people to step up and go through everything we learned without hesitation … I’m just happy we could help,” said Southwell.

Owens is now in a medical rehab center outside of Atlanta with his family.

"It was amazing to witness our Combat Ready Airmen instantly form a team and apply their learned [Self Aid and Buddy Care] skills to save Mr. Owens' life,” said Maj. Jonathan Izworksi, 1st SOMOS commander.