By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
Two Air Force Academy cadets put their emergency medical technician training to good use during a skydiving trip in Utah in September.
Cadet 1st Class Jordan Craft and Cadet 2nd Class Kelli Wood assessed and treated a friend’s injuries until an ambulance arrived after the friend suffered a malfunction on landing after a jump.
Part of the treatment that the two cadets provided included cervical spine stabilization. Medics later determined that the victim had suffered a broken jaw, significant cuts and bruises and a neck fracture.
“They essentially saved the man’s life,” said Academy EMT instructor Staff Sgt. Erin Ward.
Cadet Wood is among the 70 or so cadets who volunteer their time and skills to serve as EMTs.
Program director Senior Master Sgt. Bryan Haan can’t say enough about them.
“They’ve done a great thing and have impressed me from day one,” said Sergeant Haan, who has worked with the program since 2004.
After certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, cadets augment EMTs from the 10th Medical Group for such events as intramurals, collegiate sports, Basic Cadet Training, survival training, Commandant’s Challenge and Recognition. After the 10th MDG emergency room closed in 2007, the group lost nearly half its permanent EMTs, declining from 120 to 65 in the last two years.
“The cadet program really stepped up and took over with events,” Sergeant Haan said.
For every 30 cadets who are accepted, Sergeant Ward receives more than 100 applications.
“It’s a pretty prestigious club to get into,” Sergeant Ward said.
Cadets receive 110 classroom hours of training during the fall semester. Training involves a wide gamut of skills, including CPR, treatment for wounds, cardiac arrests, baby deliveries, dislocations and sprains, and managing medications under the direction of a physician. Cadet EMTs also get opportunities to see EMTs from American Medical Response work in the field.
It takes no small amount of motivation to train for and serve as an EMT, especially on top of the demands of cadet life, Sergeant Haan said. Plus, cadets receive no pay for their service.
“They do it on their own time,” Sergeant Haan said. “They report early and stay late. It’s not the easiest job in the Cadet Wing.”
For Cadet Wood, the decision to commit to the program was easy.
“My dad was a firefighter and EMT, and I always idolized him growing up,” she said.
While riding with her dad one day as a youngster, she watched as he treated seriously injured passengers in an auto accident.
“From then on, I knew I wanted to be able to help people just like he had and have the opportunity to make a difference,” said Cadet Wood, who is considering either pilot training or following in her brother’s footsteps as a weather officer after she graduates.
Helping others also runs in the family for Cadet 1st Class Richard Wheeler, a civil engineering major with CS-14 and native of Declo, Idaho.
“My dad was a member of the Cassia County Search and Rescue, an AMT and first responder to a lot of accidents. Since we live in a remote area, he would arrive on scene sometimes 15-20 minutes before the ambulance,” Cadet Wheeler said. “(It’s) a great example of service that I always wanted to mirror.”
Cadet 2nd Class Travis Lyon, a biology major with CS-3, said he considered the commitment to the program well worth it, even in light of the challenge
it presented in addition to his other cadet responsibilities. “I was really motivated to be an EMT because I was really curious about trying to become a doctor or go to medical school,” said Cadet Lyon, a native of Grass Valley, Calif.
After certification, it became more than a responsibility.
“It was really satisfying to actually help people directly and have a direct impact on the Cadet Wing,” he said. “This confirmed my ambition to try and become part of the medical profession, and I feel really lucky to be given that opportunity to help people.”
Cadet Lyon helps people outside the Academy as well. He has treated fellow travelers on airplanes and applied his skills in hospital emergency rooms in Denver and at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.
“I’ve gotten the opportunity to really see emergency medicine and what it takes to take care of people who are in critical conditions and give them the opportunity to survive,” he said.
Cadet Wheeler used his training during an excursion to Buena Vista, Colo., with friends to treat a friend who had fallen about 10 feet head first into a shallow pond, splitting his head in two spots. Cadet Wheeler helped remove the victim from the outside, applied pressure to limit bleeding and covered the victim to prevent hypothermia.
Cadet Wheeler said the friend is in good condition, “only needing about 20 stitches.” Cadet Wood’s skydiving friend is also now up and walking after the spinal fractures were fused.