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352nd SOW Airman performs heroic act to save a life

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tenley Long
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Superman, Batman and Spiderman are a few names that come to mind when asked who is a hero. For one man, that hero’s name is Nathan Rhoden.

On February 27, 2016, like any normal day, a British student pilot was flying in a Microlight aircraft for the first time on his own at the Peterborough Conington Airfield, England. Then the unimaginable happened.

“The first instance I knew the pilot was in trouble was when I saw the aircraft wobbling. He did a ‘touch and go’ on the runway. You could tell he was about to stall, and at that point he did,” said Master Sgt. Nathan Rhoden, 352nd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent. “He spun in from about 75 feet up above, into the ground.”

Luckily, Rhoden was nearby working on his personal aircraft. He was a first responder, along with other fire crew and rescue trained airfield club members.

“When the crash alarm sounded, he went without hesitation to help,” said Julie Churchill, an operator at the Peterborough Conington Airfield.

Rhoden led the rescue team, with the help of Johnathan Roberts, a senior aircraft engineer at the Peterborough Conington Airfield. Rhoden approached the crash site prepared for the worst possible outcome.

“I knew the gentleman could possibly be deceased just by the look of the crash. The aircraft was upside down, and he was laying in the aircraft the wrong way around,” Rhoden said. “I told the rescue team to take a deep breath and get ready, because it probably wasn’t going to be good.”

The team needed to free the pilot from the restraints of the aircraft. Rhoden then lifted the wing of the aircraft, allowing the team to reach the pilot.

“That’s where Johnathan was able to get him out of his restraints,” said Rhoden. “We then used the canopy of the aircraft as a makeshift stretcher to pull him free, then flipped the aircraft off of him.”

Using his Air Force training, Rhoden performed self-aid buddy care, stabilizing broken bones and bandaging lacerations without hesitation.

“We used our jackets to keep the pilot warm while Nathan administered first aid,” said Roberts. “By that time the emergency services arrived, and we could hand the pilot over to them.”

The pilot spent some time in the hospital, and has since been released. He suffered many injuries, but is expected to make a full recovery.

“Nate’s strength in body, character and his skillset really helped us out,” said Churchill. “We are very grateful for his help.”

Thanks to the heroic acts of Rhoden and the rescue team, the pilot lived to see another day.

“It was just what I think anyone would have done at that moment in time, especially with a military background and training,” Rhoden said. “I guess I would consider the people who helped me out my heroes for that day, but I didn’t think about anything more than just helping another person.”

Heroes are not defined by the costume they wear, or the gadgets they use. They are defined by their actions. Although Rhoden does not consider himself a hero, on this day his heroic actions defined him.