Virginia Air National Guard Airmen recognized for life saving actions
By Staff Sgt. Johnisa B. Roberts, 192nd Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 26, 2019
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- March is Women’s History Month, a time when many aim to highlight and recognize women who have made significant contributions at various points in time. The 192nd Wing, Virginia Air National Guard, is not an exception when it comes to service and excellence amongst our female leaders and service members. Women in the VaANG work hard with their teams to fulfill their missions and understand that they are Airmen both on and off duty.
This notion was especially true for two female Airmen, Tech. Sgt. Keona Newsom and Staff Sgt. Noel Cullen, who each received recognition here on Jan. 9, 2019, for their efforts in saving a human life on separate occasions.
Newsom, 192nd Operations Group Commander’s Support Staff, did not hesitate to react while shopping at a Target with her Noncommissioned Officer Academy classmates in Maryville, Tennessee. She heard the panicked cries of a child coming from one of the public restrooms in the store and immediately sprang into action.
“...We heard a little girl scream from the bathroom, and at first we didn’t know what was going on...so we dropped everything and ran to the bathroom,” said Newsom. “When we got there, we saw a woman laying on the ground.”
Newsom and her classmates had stumbled on to a scene they did not expect. The woman on the ground was bleeding from her head. Thinking quickly, they worked together to clear out and secure the bathroom, call 911 and administer first aid for the woman until paramedics arrived.
“When we arrived, there was so much blood that there was really nothing else we could use but our jackets, so we took them off and put them under her head and secured them,” Newsom said. “We kept her stable until paramedics arrived.”
Newsom said that although it was mostly instinct that compelled her and her classmates to react and intervene in the situation, she could not deny that her military background also played a factor in knowing what to do in a crisis.
“My military background helped a lot with the SABC training we receive,” said Newsom. “I was able to utilize those principles in the situation as well as [remaining] calm under that pressure. The training that we get when we deploy, mobilize, everything like that - it really played a role and was crucial to us helping that woman in Target.”
According to Air Force Instruction 36-2644, “Self-Aid and Buddy Care (SABC) training fulfills an Expeditionary Skills Training (EST) requirement to produce deployment-ready Airman; it provides knowledge and skills to minimize injury and prevent death or disability in deployed environments or home station emergencies.”
“When something happens off duty and you realize you have to take action and put your military skills to work, that’s when it hits home,” said Newsom. “You’re on duty 24/7, and you’re here to protect people and do everything you can, so that’s our job.”
In addition to human instinct and utilizing military training, Cullen, 192nd Support Squadron Base Services, said that it was also her maternal instinct that ensured she did not hesitate when she rescued a young boy while white-water rafting during the summer of 2018. The young boy had found himself trapped upside-down in rough waters when his raft flipped over.
Without a second thought, Cullen rushed to the boy and pulled him out of the water by his feet, hit his back a couple of times until he coughed up water, and tied him to a rope she had in order to take him safely to his father.
“My decision to go into the water was more of a maternal instinct, but coming from a military standpoint, I just couldn’t leave anybody behind,” said Cullen. “If it were my kids, I would want somebody to do [the same].”
There are many sacrifices that all our Airmen perform day to day, on and off duty. Newsom and Cullen were both surprised to receive recognition for the incredible deeds they accomplished in rescuing the injured woman and the boy in danger.
“I was very appreciative of the award, [although] the woman’s safety and well-being was my main concern,” said Newsom. “I was very shocked to receive an award because I felt we did what any decent [person] should do; if a little girl is screaming and a woman is in trouble, you go help.”
“The award was completely unexpected [for me],” said Cullen. “It was a great feeling to be recognized by people you don’t even think always necessarily see you. It was really nice to have my peers know that it’s more than just the uniform every day, the mission, and then go home.”