MARINE CORPS -- Personnel from the Air Station Structural Fire Division were named the top team in the Marine Corps recently.
The Marine Corps Team Fire Fighter Heroism Award was presented to the division Aug. 27. Firefighters Ken Padgett and Chad Spell, Driver Operators Darran Vaughn and Ben Woods,
Inspector Allen Holbrook and Pfc. Brandon Ashby, aircraft firefighting and rescue specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, were recognized for acts of heroism above and beyond the call of duty when responding to an electrical accident that nearly killed an Air Station civilian in August 2003.
The team represented the Marine Corps in the Department of Defense Fire and Emergency Services Award Program. The program recognizes individuals, teams and departments that make significant contributions to Fire and Emergency Services.
“This is a very difficult job, day in and day out, and a lot of that work goes largely unnoticed,” said Lt. Col. Patrick D. Noonan, who presented the award to the division. “This award is not just handed out to anyone. The entire Air Station is proud of these men.”
The accident took place when a civilian contractor was injured while working on a high voltage line at the end of one of the Air Station’s runways. The firefighters’ rapid response set them up for a successful mission.
“We were fortunate enough to be pretty close to the scene when we got the call,” Vaughn said. “We were on site about four minutes after the initial call came through. That put us in good position to be effective.”
The six-man team reacted swiftly and professionally as soon as they arrived on the scene. While Padgett and Woods began CPR, Vaughn, Spell and Ashby set up oxygen and an Automated External Defibrillator for the victim.
“When you have a lot of people running around in a high-stress situation things can get confusing very easily,” Vaughn said. “But we pulled together exactly the way we train and worked as a team to accomplish the mission.”
While Padgett and Woods continued CPR, Holbrook looked for a reading from the AED.
“Being on the flight line made things very difficult,” Vaughn said. “Listening for breath and getting vitals is difficult enough even without the jets around. We also know that type of environment can cause an interruption in the AED readings.”
Nearly thirteen minutes after the team received the call, the victim showed signs of breathing and held a faint pulse.
“Once we knew he was back, we got him loaded into an ambulance and on to the hospital,” Vaughn said. “Looking back, it all happened really fast but when you are working your way through a process time seems to slow down.”
The rescue was a success as the victim returned to work four months later and has been doing well since.
“When we help save someone, that’s a good day,” Vaughn said.
The award was the second straight year of recognition for the Air Station fire fighters. In 2002, the division was awarded Structural Firefighter of the Year.
“We’re just proud to represent the Air Station like this,” Vaughn said. “We have a great team with great support. It feels real good to be recognized.”