’Service before self.’ How a Keesler-trained airman helped save a commercial airline passenger

Kemberly Groue/U.S. Air Force 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

An airman who received his emergency medical technician license at Keesler Air Force Base put his training to use less than 24 hours later on his flight home.

Airman First Class Nathan Johnson, an aerospace medical technician with the 153d Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard, was at Keesler in Biloxi this summer for technical training.

He was on the flight home when a public announcement came over the speakers for any medical personnel aboard the airplane to identify themselves. Johnson immediately stepped forward, as did a former U.S. Navy firefighter.

Together, they worked to revive a passenger who had lost consciousness.

“We made sure she was breathing and went through our EMS run sheet, answering questions like how conscious she was, whether her airway was secured, and if she was bleeding — things like that,” Johnson told Senior Airman Edward Hermsen of the 153rd public affairs staff. Hermsen wrote up the incident and shared it on the group’s Facebook page.

The news release said the decision was made to continue with the flight to its Houston destination, which was about an hour away and where treatment options would be available. Johnson and the other volunteer continued to monitor the distressed passenger’s vital signs and administer oxygen until the flight landed.

After landing, Johnson stayed with the woman until he could transfer her care to paramedics in Houston. In doing so, he missed his connecting flight to Denver, Colorado.

“Once you’ve engaged with a patient from an EMT standpoint, you can’t leave that patient until you can get them to a higher level of care,” Johnson told Hermsen for the news release. “I told the guy with me he could go, and I would stay with the patient because he had family waiting for him outside the airport.”

Johnson was able to catch a flight a few hours later and reunite with his family, whom he hadn’t seen in several months.

“The actions of A1C Johnson truly exemplify what it means to prioritize service before self,” the National Guard news release said. “It’s not only the fact that A1C Johnson quickly and without hesitation answered the call for help, but also his unwavering commitment to waiting by the passenger’s side until paramedics arrived, even at the cost of missing his connecting flight.”

The news release said Johnson exemplified one of the Air Force’s core values, service before self.