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Duke reservist credits training, faith in rescue of local motorist

Staff Sgt. Steve Hansen, 919th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron, found the medical skills taught in a recent combat deployment  training course would prove critical much closer to home.  Hansen is an airdrop specialist with the Duke Field reserve unit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cheryl Foster)

Staff Sgt. Steve Hansen, 919th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron, found the medical skills taught in a recent combat deployment training course would prove critical much closer to home. Hansen is an airdrop specialist with the Duke Field reserve unit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cheryl Foster)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- Staff Sgt. Steve Hansen figured his recent combat first-aid training skills would be used in a deployed environment.

But that's not how things worked out for the Duke Field reservist.

On a recent commute home from Duke, Hansen, an air transportation craftsman and airdrop training specialist with the 919th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron, witnessed a vehicle accident that instantly summoned those skills. Driving north on Florida's State Road 85 as he entered the Crestview city limits, the reservist glanced to his left toward southbound traffic. He was startled to see a pickup truck rear-ending another vehicle then becoming airborne for nearly 100 feet before rolling over and coming to rest on its roof.

"It was like watching an action movie," Hansen said, describing the dramatic accident events. "As I pulled off I saw some other drivers slow down and look, but not everyone stopped right away, so I got out of my truck and ran across the road to where the truck had landed."

There he was surprised to see two teenage boys who had somehow emerged relatively unscathed from the wrecked truck's passenger side. One ran to check on the other vehicle and its occupants - later reporting they appeared far less injured -- while the second stayed beside the truck.

"I heard there was someone still inside, so I looked down and found the (adult male) driver still upside down and still conscious, "Hansen said. "His arm was trapped beneath the steering wheel and the dash. He had his other free arm wrapped around the gear shifter trying to free himself. "You could smell the gas fumes really strong and there were a bunch of dangling wires exposed, so I was obviously concerned there was a fire risk."

While the driver-side door was crushed, the passenger-side window was broken out but still accessible enough to allow Hansen to low-crawl inside toward him.

"I asked him if he was okay. He said he was, but his arm was stuck. I then wrapped one arm around his body. "I could hear the glass breaking, and metal collapsing as the truck kind of rolled back, so I looked at him and said, 'We've got to get you out of here now.' I wrapped my other free arm around him, we pulled as hard as we could together and freed his arm, then dragged him from the passenger side."

Once the crash victim was extricated, Hansen saw he had a very large open wound on his arm.

"He had a gash around 10 inches long, with some muscle removed, and it was pretty bloody, "Hansen said. " I pulled off my t-shirt, and used it to bandage his arm."

A Marine, who had arrived on the scene soon after Hansen, helped him move the injured driver away from the vehicle to an impromptu triage area using a two-man carry - a basic technique taught to all military members. The two continued to monitor the driver's condition, elevated his injured arm to control bleeding and coordinated additional help from other motorists arriving on the scene until police and an ambulance arrived.

"I had just gone thru the Air Combat Commando course at Hurlburt Field, "Hansen said. "It included much more in-depth medical training than the more general Self-Aid and Buddy Care course. It sticks out very vividly in my mind. The SABC was good training, but this one utilized training in chaotic, realistic scenarios using mannequins that would actually bleed."

The Airman said the most valuable training point was "to slow down to move fast."

"I did a lot of this by assessing the different situations. I smelled gas from a five gallon gas can that was in the pickup cab spilling its contents on the driver. I saw the live wires, the danger of sparks and potential fire and kept analyzing the situation as far as his arm and what he was trying to do to pull himself out. I also analyzed the hazards in how time-sensitive everything was. That's when I told him I had to get him out of there immediately."

"I give 100 percent credit to God for leading me to stop and help and Air Force training for helping me follow through quickly and precisely," Hansen said. "I think the training gave me the overall confidence, and I'm very pleased."