Towing a camper is difficult, towing a bus even more; thus, towing a U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom with a rotor span longer than a bus requires skill and precision.
In a land overseas, after several long days and nights at the end of the largest Indo-Pacific Airshow, towing a helicopter became a potentially dangerous situation for one Marine.
It was the last night of the Singapore Airshow, more than 200,000 international visitors had come and gone, and two Airmen from the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were towing a static MQ-9 Reaper back to their designated hangar behind the group of Marines as everyone packed up to head home.
Suddenly, a Marine’s leg was caught by a service wheel, and began dragging along the flightline next to the Venom, which weighs roughly the same as a 54 passenger school bus or five tons.
As Airmen witnessed other Marines rush to raise the service wheel with a jack to free their brother in arms, they quickly hurried to assist in their aid.
“The jack just gave out, and the back of the skid fell on the Marine’s leg,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony, Tiger Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief with the 432nd AMXS. “And he just started screaming.”
Anthony and Staff Sgt. Hunter, Reaper AMU crew chief with 432nd AMXS, sprang into action, lifting the helicopter by its tail so the Marine could be removed from under the skid.
Once the Marine was safely removed from underneath the helicopter, both Airmen provided self-aid buddy care and treated him for shock, lifting his leg up and calming him down while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
The Marine was then transported safely to a hospital, where he was treated for his injury and returned for work the next day.
It was a situation both Hunter and Anthony could not believe happened, but were glad to have been there to help.
“We were closing out this airshow and no one expected something to go from zero to a hundred so quickly,” said Master Sgt. Cameron, Reaper AMU specialist section chief. “Hunter and Anthony responding to this was a direct result of how we train at Creech.”
Safety and maintenance are innately interwoven, and both Airmen agreed they acted purely on instinct.
“It makes a lot of the danger for the jobs we do more real,” Hunter said. “Everybody is told that the warnings are written in red because somebody bled for that, or something went wrong before.”
The events in Singapore served as a reminder of how anything can happen out on a flight line, or in a hangar, and it is the responsibility of every service member to be trained and equipped to safely and effectively accomplish the mission.
“The commonality of what happened in Singapore and ground safety mishaps across the maintenance career field are that they happen fast, and without warning,” Cameron said. “A lot of this brings an organizational mindset back into focus. Airmen should understand these things happen, and when they do, we all have to react and respond as quickly as possible.”
Thanks to the quick actions taken by Hunter and Anthony, the health and safety of a brother in arms was assured, and the 432nd Wing Safety office recognized their actions by submitting them for the Wing’s Crew Chief Award of the Quarter, awarded by Wing leadership.
“The Air Force Safety Mission is to safeguard Airmen, protect resources and preserve combat capabilities” said Lt. Col. Rich, 432nd Wing chief of safety. “SSgt. Hunter and SSgt. Anthony exemplified this and the strong safety culture in the 432nd AMXS. The outstanding quick reaction mitigated the situation from getting worse, and saved the injured Marine.”
According to Rich, Hunter and Anthony’s actions were also highlighted as appropriate responses in the 432nd Wing Safety’s “What would you do?” campaign to critically think about responses to emergency situations.
The work and time being put into the maintenance each MQ-9 keeps 432nd WG/432nd AEW assets in the air, and members of the Total Force team safe.