CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Being at the right place at the right time with the proper training can make the difference between life and death. Just ask Staff Sgt. Bradley Owens, a combat medic with the West Virginia Army National Guard’s (WVARNG) Company C, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion.
Late in the evening of April 12, Owens was leaving the Williamstown armory near Parkersburg, West Virginia, after completing a training mission when he and two other Guard members witnessed a single-vehicle wreck.
“We had finished our training for the night and were heading into town to grab a bite to eat,” Owens said. “A vehicle drove off the interstate and landed in a ditch right in front of us. Debris from the accident hit one of our vehicles.”
Owens immediately put his combat medic training to work.
Upon approaching the vehicle, Owens sized up the scene and determined there was one individual, the driver, in the vehicle. He introduced himself and began doing a medical assessment to see how injured the driver might be.
“The driver was conscious and able to speak to me,” stated Owens. “I asked one of my fellow Guard members to call 911 and the other to grab my medic bag from my vehicle. I was happy that there appeared to be no serious external injuries to the victim. The driver seemed stable, and it looked like he was no worse for wear.”
Things were however about to take a turn for the worse.
According to Owens, a few minutes later the driver lost consciousness, became unresponsive to painful stimuli, and stopped breathing on his own.
“When he suddenly lost consciousness, I began to suspect that he had a significant head bleed or that he was under the influence of some toxin,” said Owens. “As his respirations slowed, I was concerned that he would stop breathing altogether. I knew that I had to act in order to protect his brain from further injury.”
Owens opened the driver's airway by executing a jaw thrust maneuver, then inserted a nasopharyngeal adjunct to secure the airway. He then applied a bag valve mask (BVM) and began squeezing the football-shaped device to breathe for the victim. He stabilized the driver’s spine to limit or prevent any possible damage and waited for first responders to arrive.
Once first responders were on scene, Owens gave them his assessment and treatment briefing, assisted them in extracting the patient from the vehicle, then relinquished medical control.
Happily, the driver was safely transported to a local hospital, arriving in stable condition.
Owens credits his training as a combat medic, or 68W, with his ability to deal well with trauma and complex situations. “68W training has made me familiar with chaotic and stressful conditions,” he stated.
Born and raised in Morgantown, Owens was drawn to the emergency medical field shortly after becoming a volunteer firefighter. He quickly became an Emergency Medical Technician-Basic (EMT-B), and then began looking for ways to increase his training and skill level. In 2008, he joined the WVARNG which helped him pay for paramedic school. He has worked as a civilian paramedic for Monongalia EMS ever since. He is currently enrolled at the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Medicine pursuing a Medical Doctorate (MD) degree.
Owens deployed to Kuwait in 2010 to 2011 with the 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery Regiment, and again in 2015 to 2016 to Kuwait and Iraq with Company C, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion performing Aeromedical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions. He still serves with the 2-104th as an air ambulance Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO).
“I believe very strongly that the National Guard is uniquely situated to help our citizens during times of crisis or natural hazard,” stated Owens. “I joined the WVARNG because I felt a strong sense of patriotism and duty. Because of my love and passion for the emergency medical field, becoming a combat medic was the natural best way for me to serve my nation and my fellow West Virginians.”
“I am very happy my fellow Guardsmen and I were able to help the driver avoid serious injury,” said Owens. “I think WVARNG members, regardless of their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty), are always ready to serve and assist those in need. Mostly, I'm just happy that we were there at the right place at the right moment and were able to facilitate a positive outcome.”