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Heroic Airmen lauded by Command Chief Hotaling during visit

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elaine Nowak
  • 107th Airlift Wing
Five Airmen from the 107th Civil Engineering Squadron Fire Department that put their training to use to help a man in distress at Babin Lake, North Carolina were thanked today by the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Air National Guard.

The five firefighters, Staff Sergeant Christopher McKimmie, Senior Airman John Guiher, and Airmen First Class Michael Giordano, Jared Hicks and Joshua Yurchek, were spending their day off from a two-week class relaxing at the lake. The class was held at a nearby North Carolina Regional Training Center where the civil engineers were being trained in a range of skills. Part of their training was water rescue awareness, which they had done at the very same lake four days earlier.

The Airmen noticed a swimmer having difficulties in the deep water of the swimming area. The man was bobbing under water, splashing and appeared to be panicking. In the man's struggle, he was pulling under a female companion that was trying to assist him. She yelled for help.

The five Airmen jumped to action and swam to the man. They were able to hold him above water so that he could catch his breath and regain his composure. Then the Airmen swam him safely back to shore. The man did not require medical attention.

The victim thanked the Airmen for saving his life. The woman also expressed her gratitude.

Upon their return to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station today, the group met with the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Air National Guard, Chief Master Sgt. James W. Hotaling. Hotaling visited the 107th Airlift Wing during their drill weekend. Hotaling had lunch with the group of rescuers and thanked them for what they had done.

"Firefighters are a great example of 'train how you fight' and to always be ready because you never know when or in what capacity you'll be called upon," he said.

The Airmen say they live by what they learned at the Department of Defense Fire Academy, to 'train as if someone's life depends on it because it does.'

"It's an instinct. Once we realized he was really drowning, we all swung into action and did what we were trained to do," said Yurchek. Yurchek says his civilian career goal is to become a certified emergency medical technician.

Hicks, Guiher and McKimmie are also volunteer firefighters. They use their Air Force training in their communities often. This is common for members of the Air National Guard, to bring their military skills and experience to enhance their civilian careers and vice versa.

"These Airmen executed flawlessly and saved a life. The Air National Guard is always 'on mission,'" said Hotaling.