Two wing members awarded for lifesaving actions

  • Published
  • By David R. Hopper
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 557th Weather Wing recently had two individuals receive awards for saving the lives of a fellow service member.

On Aug. 24, 2020, Col. Patrick Williams, 557th WW commander, presented the Air Force Commendation Medal first oak leaf cluster to Tech. Sgt. Alex Brosnahan, 2d Weather Squadron, for saving the life of U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Danny Villarreal.

On Sept. 18, 2020, Daniel Holmes, 2d Weather Squadron Det. 2, located at the Sagamore Hill Solar Observatory in Hamilton, Massachusetts, was presented the Award for Civilian Achievement by Williams using a remote connection due to COVID-19 traveling restrictions.

“Life happens in the most unexpected ways and at the most unexpected times,” Williams said. “It’s what we do when life happens that defines us as a person and defines our character.”

The life-saving event for Brosnahan happened on July 11, 2020 when he deviated from his normal fitness routine.

“I wanted to try running at a new area instead of my usual area around our neighborhood,” Brosnahan said. “While I was coming towards the parking lot in my vehicle, I noticed two people acting slightly unusual but did not pay too much attention to it at first.

“As I got closer, I realized that a man was lying on the cement and was unconscious. I immediately pulled my vehicle into a nearby parking spot as quickly as possible, and ran over to the scene.”

The man lying unconscious was Villarreal and it was his wife Katrina, who was desperately trying to revive her husband. When Brosnahan arrived Katrina had already started performing CPR with the guidance of a 911 dispatcher.

“I was asked by Katrina if I knew first aid, as military members, we are routinely trained on what we Air Force members refer to as Self-Aid, Buddy Care (SABC) - so I answered ‘Yes!’,” said Brosnahan. “I quickly relieved her from CPR. As I started performing compressions, I asked the gentleman who was standing next to us if he could check for a pulse again as I did compressions.

“After a few minutes of performing chest-compressions, a police officer arrived on the scene. He ensured that I was okay through the process, was prepared to step in if I tired out, and began speaking with dispatch and other parties on his radio. After a few more cycles of compressions, emergency responders arrived and prepared emergency equipment and medication while I continued chest compressions.”

The paramedics were able to recover a pulse and get Villarreal stabilized enough for transport to a nearby hospital.

Separately in Massachusetts, Holmes had a situation arise at Sagamore Hill on July 21, 2020. It all happened during lunchtime when maintenance and operations were working to fix a problem that was very involved and was spanning several days.

“I had my lunch in the radio room and (the Airman) had ordered a steak bomb,” Holmes said.  “We were going back and forth non-stop with discussions and maintenance actions when (the Airman) abruptly got up from the operations desk and went into the maintenance room.

“I thought it was odd, and when he came around the corner, he threw up all over everything and was showing signs of choking.” 

Holmes wasted no time and followed the CPR training that he had at one time.

“I spun him to get behind him and did the Heimlich thrust but my hands broke apart and he started to fall over,” Holmes said.  “I grabbed him again and really locked my hands together - I figured this was all or nothing because he wouldn’t have any more air in him.  I hit him so hard that I think I lifted him off the floor. 

“As he bent over again, I hit him in the center of his back as hard as I could with a forearm blow that I thought could break his back and then a very large piece of steak shot out of him - I was so excited that I yelled and told him he wasn’t going to die today!”

The events of those days could have had a very different ending had Brosnahan and Holmes not been there.

“As a commander, an event where someone needs lifesaving action or dies on-site is a nightmare scenario,” said Capt. Joshua Gooch, 2d WS Det. 2 commander.  “To see Mr. Holmes instinctively react and handle the situation so easily makes me proud to work with him and I am very grateful!”

Williams was more than happy to preside over both ceremonies to present these two heroic individuals with awards.

“It is hard to express with words the gratitude we feel,” Williams said. “Even though the medals that we have presented these two outstanding gentlemen are supposed to be a physical representation of our gratitude, it still falls terribly short of its goal.

“Dan, Alex, during these crazy times of uncertainty you have reminded us that being a good person, being prepared and not being afraid to take action can save lives – thank you.”