It started out as a typical August afternoon in Southern California at March Air Reserve Base — hot and sunny. Around the base, it was business as usual, without a hint of ‘outside’ intervention. When, out of nowhere, torrential rains, high winds and chunks of hail pummeled the Inland Empire, leaving the streets flooded and dangerous to use, especially for a mother and her infant child.
“In the month of August, it is safe to assume you will experience very hot, dry days in the Moreno Valley area,” said Mark Ditter, March ARB weather forecaster. “What happened on August 30th was not the norm. To get an idea of how much rain emptied onto the base, on average, we receive one-tenth of an inch of rain during this month. On that one day, we were hit with a whopping 2.27 inches of rain in just a couple of hours. We experienced what is commonly referred to as a Southwest Monsoon.”
The swing-shifters were preparing to conduct a foreign object damage walk on the flightline, when the weather took a turn for the worse.
As they were gearing up for the FOD walk, out of nowhere, dark clouds rolled in, quickly followed by thunder and lightning. It felt as though the winds were moving at 50 miles per hour or more. Soon after came a torrential downpour of rain accompanied by penny-sized hail.
As maintainers made their way back to the squadron from the flightline, Graeber Street, just outside the C-17 maintenance facility, began to flood at a high rate of speed.
As water levels rose, a car driven by Laura McGahey was spotted approaching the flooded roadway. Before she could be warned of the impending danger, she entered the flooded road and her car was immediately engulfed by the raging waters. Her car, which began taking on water, proceeded to stall, stranding her and her one-month-old infant son, Sam.
Without hesitation, 452d AMXS members took command of the worsening situation. Staff Sgt. James Elson drove his personal high-clearance pick-up truck into the floodwaters and, with the assistance of Staff Sgt. Brian Segrist and Senior Airman Gabriel Grohowsky, was able to hook-up the stalled vehicle with cargo straps and tow it out of danger. This was not an easy task because the two Airmen had to wade through approximately two feet of muddy water to reach the disabled vehicle.
After securing the vehicle in a safe location just outside the reach of floodwaters, the Airmen learned that Mrs. McGahey had a walker boot brace on her left leg due to a recent fracture, inhibiting her ability to walk. Staff Sgts. Brian Hicks and Segrist, carried McGahey to safety while Master Sgt. Anthony Flores retrieved Sam and brought them into the 452d AMXS building.
Master Sgt. Shawn Nguyen, newly minted Doctor of Physical Therapy, performed a quick visual assessment of McGahey and determined that she was merely shaken up by the events, fearing for the safety of her child.
The squadron attended to Mrs. McGahey for approximately 30 minutes until her husband arrived.
The actions of the 452d AMXS maintainers was a true testament of Team March members dedication to service!