By Jennifer Thibault | Joint Task Force-Space Defense Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — For some, no matter where they are they always find a way to be unexpectedly useful or instrumental to some critical operation.
That appears to be the case for Master Sgt. Ryan Herter, Joint Task Force-Space Defense Current Operations senior enlisted leader, who recently vacationed with his family in Hawaii.
“We were celebrating my wife, Jessika, and my eight year wedding anniversary as well as trying to recreate some historical family photos,” he said.
Along for the ride were his 6-year-old daughter along with Jessika’s parents and aunt. The family shares an appreciation for history and set out to recreate photos of Jessika’s great grandparents in similar spots around Pearl Harbor during World War II.
“I’m pursuing my master’s degree in American Military History,’” he said. “At one point in the vacation, I went to visit a former coworker in [Indo-Pacific Command]. He showed me how the military made the conscious decision to keep some of the damage inflicted by the Japanese during World War II.”
On the way to visit Turtle Bay, Herter noticed a car ahead sway off the road and started riding the guard rail.
“The vehicle in front of us drove around it, but I drove up alongside and could see the driver was slumped over the wheel,” he said.
The driver then bounced off a bridge and crossed the oncoming traffic lane before resting on the other shoulder.
“My mother-in-law, Paula, is a nurse so she went with me to check on the driver while my wife called 9-1-1,” he said. “We could see the car was still in drive. I started knocking on the window and tried to get him to unlock the doors. When he finally came to, he attempted to drive again.”
At this time, some locals who had also witnessed the accident turned around and returned to park their car in front of the stopped vehicle. They provided Jessika the location information for emergency responders and were able to pull the emergency brake.
“While they were able to reach the emergency brake from the passenger side, I was finally able to remove the keys from the ignition so he wouldn’t be able to attempt to drive again,” Herter said. “Paula, then took over and started to assess his condition. We just kept talking to him to try to keep him coherent until first responders arrived.”
Based on the conversations at the scene, it’s believed the driver was experiencing a diabetic attack which can lead to incoherence, becoming anxious, fatigue and weak as well as shock.
“When I hear stories like this I’m always impressed. It seems like a simple act of looking out for someone yet I’m sure there were a number of cars that just drove on by,” said Maj. Benjamin Herring, National Space Defense Enter deputy chief of current operations. “Undoubtedly if the man had resumed driving he would have placed himself and others at grave risk.”
Following the dynamic situation, the Herter family continued on their way to Turtle Bay and to see other island sights and stage their recreated generational photos.
For Herter, this situation resolved much better than the one he experienced in Colorado Springs nearly two decades earlier.
“I was driving home from Schriever and came upon an overturned car off Barnes by the then Sky Sox Stadium,” he said. “It appears they were drag racing before they overturned. Unfortunately, when I climbed into the vehicle to check the driver I took his pulse and realized he was deceased. Similar to my recent encounter in Hawaii, the vehicle was still running and I was able to kill the ignition. I found the passenger ejected and provided first aid.”
Herter directed the people gathered to call 9-1-1 and attended to the injured passenger until emergency responders arrived on scene.
“I think the military has trained me to the point where my instinct now is to react,” said Herter. “I am happy I was there to help.”