F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. — As Airmen, we are constantly preparing to be ready for the worst days of our lives. We live by a fit-to-fight ethos and maintain readiness for the most extreme of emergency situations. Sometimes, though, we realize we aren’t just prepared to fight for our lives, we remember that we are trained to fight for every free life in the United States.
My night came on Aug. 28, 2018. I found myself in San Antonio, Texas, with a group of Airmen the 90th Missile Wing had dubbed the best-of-the-best. We were attending the annual Air Force Sergeants Association Conference and Professional Airman’s Conference.
During the day we heard from some of the most renowned members of the Armed Forces and at night we built comradery and explored San Antonio as a group. As most know from graduating Basic Military Training, San Antonio has an enticing night life surrounding the River Walk. Locals and tourists label the River Walk as the “place to be” and a “must-see.”
I looked at my phone, and saw the time was nearly 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Not used to staying out this late, I began to weigh the pros and cons of returning to my hotel due to the early morning ahead of us. I turned to my friend, Airman 1st Class Nicole Reed, and saw she was exchanging stories with a woman who was making the transition from enlisted to officer and decided the lack of sleep would be worth the memories made.
Reed, Master Sgt. Jason Myers and I had all arrived together and were standing on the second story balcony of Howl at the Moon, a piano bar, overlooking the River Walk. We were socializing, laughing and enjoying ourselves while meeting other Airmen who were also attending the conference.
The atmosphere of the night was immediately changed as a woman began to point and scream over the side of the balcony, “She’s being raped!”
As soon as the words left the woman’s mouth I turned and reached for the door. I did not know who she was talking about or where the incident was happening, but I knew it was in the vicinity of the River Walk and that someone needed help.
I ran through the door and right in front of me was Tech. Sgt. Wil Carrico. Carrico is the ideal hero, at 6’6” with a hobby of volunteer firefighting. It is in his heart and nature to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
We ran through the bar, down two flights of stairs, and found ourselves on the River Walk to no avail. As we searched I could hear Reed giving direct instruction on the balcony to call the police, keeping everyone calm and shouting to the perpetrator that the authorities were being contacted.
I looked toward the balcony at the sound of Myers voice and he began to give us directions on the location of the incident, allowing us to arrive on the scene.
As I ran up to the assault, I noted there was a group of bystanders around two men in a physical altercation. I scanned the crowd and identified the victim of the alleged sexual assault; she was easily identifiable because she was disheveled and leaning into another woman who seemed uncomfortable.
I approached and asked the uncomfortable bystander if she was friends with the woman leaning on her. When she replied “No,” I quickly took control of the intoxicated victim by telling the bystander to, “Give her to me.”
I laid the victim down over my lap and held her so she could look at me. I asked her if she had an ID and a man from the crowd came forward with her wallet and produced her military common access card. From her military identification, she was identified as a lieutenant in the Navy and my perception of time slowed to almost complete stillness.
I looked in the eyes of the naval officer laying on my lap, unable to speak or keep her eyes open. Suddenly, I understood every second of training, every weekend safety briefing, all the deployment and weapons training and what it means to be fit-to-fight.
After I finished asking her questions and receiving “yes” and “no” head nods, she began to cry and said, “Please don’t rape me.” I began to comfort her and promised her that no one was going to hurt her while we were on the scene and that she would get the help she needed.
When I finally looked up, she and I were alone on the ground, surrounded by police tape and the local authorities were taking control of the situation. In the next moments, I answered police questions about the incident, and maintained control of the victim and mediated between her and the police until the ambulance arrived and her parents were located.
Even at this moment, none of my fellow Airmen that responded to the scene have any of the answers or know what became of our sister-in-arms after the incident. We do know her fate would have been much worse if we were not there.
Reflecting on the incidents of the evening, it is incredible that without prompting, each of our members was able to play a vital role in keeping the woman safe. Without Reed and Myers having a bird’s eye view from the second floor balcony of Howl at the Moon, we may not have made it there in time.
Without Carrico by my side, I may not have been able to take care of the victim while there was a fight happening right next to me. Every second counted and our team instinctually knew exactly what to do when it mattered.
Chief Master Sgt. Kristian Farve, 90th MW command chief, found out about the incident after one of our members wasn’t able to make it to the first session of the conference the next morning due to a lack of sleep. When he asked about the incident, we were honest and forthcoming and explained everything to him.
Since the event, we have been recognized by MAJCOM command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Tommy Mazzone, and received coins for our courage. It is true that we went in blind. We didn’t have a strategy or know what enemy we were facing. In the military, we are not just trained for war between countries. We are here so each member of the United States of America can fall asleep knowing they and their children are safe and free because of the sacrifices we make and the training we have.
It is incredible to be recognized for our actions, though we were executing our duties as Airmen and American citizens. We hope that anyone else in our situation would respond with the same instinct and genuine care.
In the words of the Air Force’s pararescuemen, “These Things We Do, That Others May Live.”