Facing danger with compassion

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Dale Haretuku, an engine mechanic assigned to the 924th Maintenance Squadron, works on an aircraft engine at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 10, 2020. Haretuku, born in Washington, was raised in America Samoa with nine siblings and decided to join the U.S. Air Force in 2003 as an electrician and has now served more than 13 years in the service as both an Airman and civilian. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Sergio A. Gamboa)
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Standing at 6’1” with a dark complexion and arms covered in tattoos, an engine mechanic can be found wearing a Seattle Seahawks cap hidden in one shop at of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

At first glance, an intimidating silhouette torqueing a wrench working on an aircraft engine in the distance, but once near him, a smile greets upcoming Airmen and co-workers.

Dale Haretuku, born in Washington, was raised in America Samoa with nine siblings in a loving and caring family. Growing up, he would see his siblings joining the military one-by-one, and he ended up being no different.

He decided to join the U.S. Air Force in 2003 as an electrician and later became a crew chief after transitioning to the guard from 2009 to 2011. Next, he dedicated his time away from serving to education for the next four years.

Dale Haretuku, an engine mechanic assigned to the 924th Maintenance Squadron, works on an aircraft engine at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 10, 2020. Haretuku, born in Washington, was raised in America Samoa and served in the U.S. Air Force as an active duty electrician, Air National Guard crew chief and now as a civilian. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Sergio A. Gamboa)

After completing school, he came back to serve in the Air Force as a civilian and engine mechanic at the 924th Maintenance Squadron.

As he did for the last five years, Dale Haretuku woke up one Thursday morning thinking it was going to be like any other day; go to work, get off, drive home and spend time with family.

He worked, got off and started making his way home.

“I was going home and saw something happening,” said Haretuku with a look confusion looking back at situation. “Vehicles were slowing down, and I saw dust shooting up in the air.”

In the distance Haretuku saw a slow-moving moving truck swaying side-to-side, and at that moment he knew he had to step in and help.

He recalled that what helped him was his time in the military and going to all those “redundant” classes and trainings he had to take as an Airman.

“It’s a joke majority of the time,” he said smiling about going to training. “But deep down, I think a lot of us retain a lot of what is taught.”

He caught up to the truck, opened the door and saw a heavy-set older man slumped over the steering wheel. Thinking quickly he slammed the breaks and put the vehicle in park before taking the man outside.

“It was almost like second nature,” said Haretuku. “I was just thinking this person needed help. So, I got out and things just started happening.”

Dale Haretuku, an engine mechanic assigned to the 924th Maintenance Squadron, works on an aircraft engine at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 10, 2020. Haretuku, born in Washington, was raised in America Samoa and served in the U.S. Air Force as an active duty electrician, Air National Guard crew chief and now as a civilian. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Sergio A. Gamboa)

As soon as the car was stopped he started yelling, “You! Call the cops. Call an ambulance,” because in training that is the first thing they tell you do. Afterwards he started performing CPR and was rotating with two other Airmen who arrived at the scene moments after. This was going on for what seemed like 30 minutes.

Throughout the whole time, the man in need was turning blue, yellow and red and at one moment a nurse stopped to help to check his pulse. “I think he is gone,” the nurse said. But that didn’t stop Haretuku from pushing forth and continuing.

“We didn’t know any better than to just do it until the ambulance got there,” said Haretuku. “I didn’t want to be there and watch this guy die.”

Shortly after, ambulance arrived, took over and proceeded with attending to the man. It took them another 15 to 30 minutes of CPR before putting him on the ambulance and taking him away.

“I don’t know how doctors and nurses do this,” said Haretuku. “They see things like this every day.

“The main thing that came across my mind was the hope that we made a difference,” he added. “At the end of the day I was just happy to have been there.”

The training Airmen receive day-in and day-out, prepares them for situations they may encounter whether for a deployment or just helping a local community member on their way home.

“Deep down, the more they keep on instilling that in you, all that training comes into play,” said Haretuku nodding up and down with a look disbelief. “You remember that stuff.”

Even when risking his own life and not knowing what was going to happen, family was the first thing on his mind.

“After what just happened, all I needed was family,” said Haretuku. “People need to have more compassion for others, even if it means putting themselves in danger.”

 

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