Upon deciding to don the uniform, warfighters opt for the less trodden path. A path of selfless service and vigilance whether on or off duty. And often opportunities to serve the community arise at the most unexpected moments. This past month has shed light on another, less visible aspect of the Special Operations and military communities.
First, Air Force Technical Sergeant Ken O’Brien, a Pararescueman (PJ) assigned to the 320th Special Tactics Squadron (320 STS), Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, ramps up a rescue record straight out of a movie plot.
Lieutenant General James “Jim” Slife, the commanding officer of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), even uploaded a short post on his official Facebook page describing the PJ’s achievements:
He’s TSgt Ken O’Brien…a pararescueman assigned to the 320 STS at Kadena. I can’t decide if he’s Superman or Mayhem (the guy on the insurance commercials). Check it out…
He’s on the President’s security detail during his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
He pulls a person from a burning car in Korea.
He saves a Thai Navy SEAL during the Thai cave rescue mission.
During that mission, he’s the furthest American in the cave, successfully rescuing the Thai Boy Scouts who’d been trapped for days. (*I have been corrected … the boys were soccer players.)
So, he’s rightfully recognized as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.
AND THEN…on his flight back to the states from Okinawa last weekend for the AFA Convention to be recognized, an infant starts choking and stops breathing. Our man OB leaps into action, clears the breathing passage, resuscitates the kid, hands him back to the parents, and then goes on about his business.
Sheesh! I don’t know whether I want to be right next to him in case some bad stuff goes down, or whether I want to be as far away from him as possible because bad stuff always seems to go down around him.”
And then there is the case of an unnamed (for Operational and Personal security reasons) Army sergeant major working on the Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
The anonymous commando was driving to the command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida to report for his first week when a car in front of him spiraled out of control, struck the guardrail, and flipped. The sergeant major ran to the trapped driver and helped her out of the wrecked vehicle, providing her first aid and remaining with her until the first responders arrived.