By Sgt. Ian Kummer
California National Guard
CAMP ROBERTS, Calif. (2/15/13) - Every noncommissioned officer in the U.S. armed forces is trained, and many have years of experience, including tours in a combat zone.
But even for seasoned leaders in the armed forces, an important question remains: In a time of crisis, will he or she be able to apply that training in a real world emergency? For one soldier, that question has been answered.
What started out as a routine flight to sunny California turned into a nightmare when a young woman suffered a severe asthma attack.
An alarmed flight attendant called out for anyone on board with medical training.
The passengers were stunned. Most had no idea what to do, or lacked the nerve to take charge of the situation. Only one person rose to the challenge — a uniformed noncommissioned officer in the California Army National Guard.
Sgt. Skylar Johnson of the 235th Engineer Company (Sapper), 579th Engineer Battalion, used every ounce of military training and knowledge he could find within himself to save his fellow passenger from a potentially fatal asthma attack while flying from Phoenix to San Luis Obispo, Calif., Feb. 10.
At the time, Johnson was traveling from his hometown, Salt Lake City, to join his unit at Camp Roberts, Calif., for training with Task Force Warrior, an element of the California Guard that specializes in teaching combat drills and other important soldiering skills to deploying National Guard units from around the country.
The crisis occurred shortly after Johnson boarded a connecting flight in Phoenix.
“No one stood up, so I, having (Combat LifeSaver) first responder training, stood up and said I could render aid to the best of my abilities,” Johnson said.
Johnson moved to the woman’s seat and learned she was suffering from a severe asthma attack, but her albuterol medication inhaler was in her checked luggage. Johnson began applying first aid.
A retired service member who was also on the plane said he was deeply impressed by Johnson’s actions.
“Sgt. Johnson immediately took charge of the situation, calming the passenger, checking her vital signs and communicating with the flight crew,” the service member recalled. “As her distress grew worse, to include moving in and out of consciousness, Sgt. Johnson remained calm, put some of the plane’s emergency medical equipment to use and requested the captain land at the nearest airport to get immediate medical assistance.”
After the plane landed, Johnson assisted the local responders and helped move the patient off the plane.
“The medics came on board, we got her albuterol,” Johnson said. “She didn’t regain consciousness until after we got her off the plane and she started coming to.”
Johnson and the woman continue to keep in touch on her road to recovery. Despite all this, Johnson remains humble about his actions and credits his Army National Guard training for enabling him to handle the medical emergency.
“I’m just glad she’s alive,” he said. “The training I had in the military directly affected her life. There’s no question about it.”