All you can do is act

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Peter Thompson
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
"When it happened, everyone else was standing around, sort of frozen from shock, but I wasn't."

Senior Airman Lance Scarbrough, 7th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants flight, was the first to respond when a civilian employee fueling a Boeing 747, fell from the maintenance stand he was working from on July 19.

Scarborough and several other Airmen from the POL shop were providing fuel and equipment to prepare the aircraft full of outbound deployers for take-off. Because the aircraft was owned by a civilian company, the Airmen could not attach their hoses to the equipment, leaving it to crew chiefs that had traveled with the plane.

Scarbrough and his supervisor were standing about 10 feet away from the crew chief, providing slack in the refueling hose for him to connect to the aircraft.

"He had hooked up to the first connection with no problem," Scarbrough continued. "When he was going over to the second, the hose must have been heavy enough to move him and make him lose his grip. He fell more than 10 feet and landed with the back of his head and neck hitting the ground first."

For many people, encountering a similar situation may trigger a reaction of fear or uncertainty. Scarbrough however, was able to use training he had acquired prior to joining the Air Force to potentially save the man's life.

"I knew immediately what to do from what I learned when I was at EMT school and the fire academy in Fort Worth (Texas)," Scarbrough said as he thought back on the event. "First I stabilized his neck to prevent him from hurting himself anymore. Within a few seconds, there was blood all over my hands and the ground, so I had someone bring me paper towels to try and stop the bleeding."

When the base fire department arrived on scene a few minutes later, Scarbrough turned the scene over to the appropriate personnel by explaining what had happened.

Later, Scarbrough was asked why he was willing to put himself at risk by beginning self-aid buddy care on the victim, even though he didn't have gloves on to protect him from blood transfer, he said, "If it were you out there, I would have done the same thing."

Scarbrough believes that when individuals are put into a situation where action needs to be taken, Airmen need to be prepared to act, regardless of their level of training.

"Not everyone will know how to handle every possible situation," he continued. "All you can do is act. Do what you know. It could mean the difference between someone's life and death."

For Scarbrough's immediate response and effort, he has been nominated for Air Combat Command's ground safety award of distinction and the Air Force Achievement Medal.

"Airman Scarbrough took initiative," said 2nd Lt. Daniel McKeown, 7th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants. "Instead of looking around and finding someone else to follow, he immediately stood out as a leader and possibly saved a man's life."

Scarbrough is hesitant to accept being referred to as a hero, even a month after the ordeal. He believes he was merely in the right place at the right time.

"Everyone keeps saying, 'You saved a man's life, you're a hero,' but what I did was part of my job, as an Airman," Scarbrough said.