AFPC Airman earns commendation for lifesaving actions
By Richard Salomon, Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs
/ Published September 12, 2008
RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS --
The wingman concept of watching over one's fellow Airmen can be found among those patrolling dangerous skies, guarding convoys in rugged mountain passes and, as in the case of a couple of personnelists at the Air Force Personnel Center here, while driving a groggy coworker home after a recent outpatient foot surgery.
Last April, Master Sgt. Jeffery Ward, an Air Force training management team leader, gave lifesaving assistance to coworker Staff Sgt. Justin Lorentz after he had a seizure and became unconscious.
For his heroic actions, Sergeant Ward received the Air Force Commendation Medal during an AFPC Commander's Call Sept. 9.
"Sergeant Ward exemplifies what being a true wingman is all about," said Maj. Gen. K.C. McClain, AFPC commander, who presented the award. "It's an honor to be able to recognize him for his prompt and courageous actions; I'm proud to have him on our team."
Of course, being a good wingman comes second nature to this 16-year veteran.
"After Sergeant Lorentz's surgery that morning, he was still in a lot of pain even after taking his medication," said Sergeant Ward, "so I offered to drive him home in his car while another co-worker followed to give me a ride back to the office."
Sergeant Ward couldn't have foreseen the events that followed.
"I didn't notice anything different in the car because he was talking to me like there was nothing wrong," he said, "but out of nowhere he started making this weird noise as he grabbed my right arm. He quickly glanced at me and then started having these convulsions. His eyes rolled back in his head as he struggled to breathe."
Sergeant Ward said it took everything in his power to stay in his lane, but by the time he was able to pull over, Sergeant Lorentz had stopped breathing.
"That's when I got really nervous and said, 'Don't die on me!'" Sergeant Ward recalled. "After I settled down some, my instincts and Air Force training took hold."
Like all Airmen, Sergeant Ward's training was in self aid and buddy care, which covers basic first aid and advanced lifesaving skills. Airmen are required to take a refresher course every two years and before deploying.
"I took my right index finger and scooped out all the phlegm and pushed on his chest three times," said Ward, who knew from previous training that regular CPR was not required in this situation. "During this time, I was able to call 911 and keep his head tipped back to open the airway. He started breathing again, but he was still unconscious."
An ambulance arrived about four minutes later and transported Sergeant Lorentz to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. BAMC doctors confirmed he had indeed experienced a bad seizure. After spending the night, he was released the following evening. Sergeant Lorentz was later diagnosed with epilepsy and is required to visit the Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, twice a week.
"I don't remember anything at all about what happened that day," Sergeant Lorentz said. "My mind was foggy for a long time after that."
The convulsions from Sergeant Lorentz's three- to four-minute seizure injured two disks in his back, which left him almost immobile for about a week.
Sergeant Ward, who stayed at Sergeant Lorentz's bedside until the early morning hours after the incident, said, "I hardly slept for about 10 days afterwards, because I was still very worried about him."
Furthering the wingman spirit, about four of their AFPC coworkers performed half-day shifts for about four days at the Lorentz home after he was discharged from BAMC. Since he was still almost immobile, his coworkers assisted Sergeant Lorentz and his wife, Bethany, by helping him do tasks around the house and by running family errands.
"I'm not sure what would have happened if Sergeant Ward hadn't been with me that afternoon," Sergeant Lorentz said. "Sure, we joke around about it now, but he's a hero in my book."
And a true wingman for other Airmen to emulate.