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Air Commando aids SNCO after motorcycle mishap

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michelle Vickers
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
A Hurlburt Field safety chief, strapped on his helmet, pulled on his gloves and hopped on his Harley Davidson motorcycle. Then, he cruised out of his driveway to make the drive down Highway 98 like any other day.

The slight fall chill of Nov. 15 in Florida wouldn't stop Master Sgt. Shawn Malcolm, 505th Command and Control Wing chief of safety, and a native of upstate New York, from riding.

As Malcolm decelerated to stop at a red light, he peered into his side view mirror to see an image of the truck behind him connecting with his motorcycle. Malcolm said he struggled to maintain control of his motorcycle until it careened to a stop and the bike fell on top of his right leg.

Senior Airman Philip Armstrong, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron pararescueman, arrived at the scene to see other cars driving around the accident without stopping. He sprang into action by blocking traffic to prevent additional collisions.

Shouting in pain and hazy from the fall, Malcolm said he remained helpless until he heard, "Sir, my name is Philip Armstrong. I'm a pararescueman and I'm here to take care of you."

According to Malcolm, as soon as he heard those words, he felt he would be okay.

"It was not an option to stop and help," Armstrong said. "You take an oath as a medic to help people in need, so for me to see that scene and know I have the training to help; it would be an injustice for me to not respond. I believe you should use your skills and talents to the best of your ability."

After blocking traffic and lifting the motorcycle off of Malcolm, Armstrong did an initial assessment of Malcolm's condition.

"Armstrong took control right away," Malcolm said. "You could tell his training kicked in, he wasn't thinking about what he was doing. His experience took over, and he knew exactly what to do."

Despite the disorder of the accident scene, Armstrong was able to keep his emotions in control to respond to the situation.

"All my training from the 23rd STS set me up for success," he said. "We're constantly doing medical refreshers and drilling scenarios so we can be the best possible medics."

Armstrong was also able to memorize Malcolm's medical information to debrief the EMTs when they arrived on scene.

Malcolm praised Armstrong's calmness under pressure, and said he is the man he wants with him in a time of need.

As chief of safety for his unit and a 20-year motorcycle rider, Malcolm's mishap provides a real-world illustration of how following the safety guidelines works.

Despite the mishap, Malcolm walked away with just a sprained ankle and road rash because he wore all his required personal protective equipment.

He advises that other riders exceed the minimum PPE standards.

"I want to exceed the standard because I don't have a seat belt or an air bag on my motorcycle, so my only protection is myself and what I wear," Malcolm said.

He also recommends that motorcycle riders get headlight modulators that switch from high to low beam lights to increase visibility. For other motorists, Malcolm said, "Always look twice for motorcycles," as they are smaller and not what a driver expects to see on the road.

One of the positive takeaways from the day was the willingness of one Airman to stop and help a wingman.

"[Armstrong] is very selfless, he exemplifies excellence in all we do," Malcolm said. "He could have just driven by, there was no obligation for him to stop and render assistance, but he did what he felt was right, which was taking care of his wingman."

While not every Airman has extensive medical training, there are still ways to help.

"Even if you don't have the medical skills, you can help with basic things like checking to see if someone is okay or directing traffic," Armstrong said.

After this mishap, and to the relief of his wife, Malcolm said he will be hanging up his motorcycle helmet for good.

In his words, "If it doesn't have a door, a seat belt and an air bag, I'm not driving it."