From lunch break to Achievement Medal

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Danielle Quilla
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
Only a few minutes away from their destination, two Airmen pulled up behind a car in a left turning lane. Suddenly, the car in front of them turned while the light was still red. As they exchanged looks of confusion, there was a loud screeching sound...

That's when the collision happened.

On Aug. 18, 2015, Staff Sgt. Donte Collins and Senior Airman Yiunier Lam, 6th Communications Squadron executive support team members, were on their way to lunch when they witnessed a vehicle accident at the intersection of Bayshore Boulevard and South Howard Avenue in Tampa, Florida. 

"I was still in shock when the truck ran into the other vehicle, but Lam snapped me out of it by saying, 'let's go!'" explained Collins, who was driving at the time.

Immediately after safely pulling to the side of the road, Collins put his vehicle in park and turned on the hazard signals before he and Lam ran across the street to the scene. Thankfully, a civilian stopped to help the driver in the truck and was already calling 911. So the Airmen were able to focus their attention on the driver in the car.

As they approached they heard an elderly woman yelling for help.

"We couldn't see her because the side airbag was fully deployed," said Collins. "I advised Lam to go back to my car and get my utility knife to cut the air bag, and luckily she looked like she wasn't suffering from any severe injuries."

Unfortunately, the woman lost her hearing aid during the accident, which made it difficult to communicate with her.

"It was a pretty large impact," said Lam. "Our main concerns were to make sure she didn't have any life threatening wounds, remained calm and stayed in the car."

Although they were unable to locate her hearing aide, the Airmen were eventually able to calm the driver down and remained with her until medical professionals arrived. 

"It was the right thing to do," said Collins. "I felt like we were more trained than anyone else out there and we could provide the information needed to the medical emergency personnel."

For their quick response and actions during the situation, Collins and Lam were both awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal during the monthly wing promotion ceremony on Aug. 31, 2015, at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

"We are always taught that we are an Airman both on and off duty," said Collins.

The two went on to advise others to be more self-aware while driving and to realize that training like Self-Aid and Buddy Care is still essential to know even when not deployed.