Airman jumps into action using deployment training, resuscitates drowning child

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kellyann Elish
  • 192nd Wing

Situations can change in an instant. We’ve all heard that before. But for Master Sgt. Keona Newsom, a commander’s support staff noncommissioned officer in charge with the 192nd Operations Group, it was never more true than on July 25, 2021.

It started out like any other relaxing Sunday. She had been with friends and family to enjoy a birthday party at a resort pool in Williamsburg, Virginia. One moment she’s lounging poolside having a good time. The next, a blood curdling scream.

“Everything was fine,” Newsom recalled. “We were in the corner under a little umbrella by the pool just talking. Then, we heard this lady screaming, so we jumped up to see what was going on.”

The crowd was stunned at the sight of a little girl at the bottom of the pool. Motionless.

Without hesitation, Newsom and a friend dove into the pool and carried the four-year-old up and out of the water. A gentleman helped lift her out and laid her down.

“We got out of the pool and ran to her,” she said. “I started doing mouth to mouth and my friend was doing chest compressions.”

After two cycles of CPR, the child finally coughed up water, and Newsom put her on her side and hoped for the best.

“But then she started fading out again, so we did another round. That seemed to do it,” Newsom said. “She was out of it, but her eyes were open, and she was responsive by blinking at me when I was talking to her and asking questions.”

An ambulance arrived shortly after and took over caring for the young girl.

Newsom has served in the Virginia Air National Guard for 16 years and regularly receives first-aid and CPR training as part of required, deployment readiness Self-Aid and Buddy Care courses. Along with her experience as a Red Cross lifeguard in her teenage years, Newsom had the tools needed to save the child’s life.

“To be honest, I wasn’t ‘textbook’ about it,” Newsom said. “I was in panic mode, but I just remembered the basics, and the knowledge was there. Thank God it worked!”

Reflecting back on the traumatic events of that day, Newsom recalled how quickly things unfolded.

“The scariest part of everything…is how silent it was,” she said. “Things really can happen in an instant. No one saw her go in the water. There was no splashing. She just slipped in and went to the bottom and was just laying there. No one, no one saw. I don’t know how long she was down there, but I’ll never forget the way she looked under the water.”

This was not the first time Newsom played a major role in saving someone’s life. In January 2019, she was recognized after assisting a woman who was bleeding on the ground in a Target restroom.

Newsom receives updates from the child’s mother - she is doing well and thriving. Because of Newsom’s and her friend’s life-saving efforts, the little girl is looking forward to her fifth birthday this month!

Resources are available for 192nd Wing Airmen who have experienced a traumatic event - either as a victim or responder. Contact Ms. Judy Crow, 192nd Wing director of psychological health, at for more information.