NCO recognized for saving life

Tech. Sgt. Kelly Bales, a training specialist with the 316th Training Squadron, poses for a photo with the Norma Brown Building in the background. Sergeant Bales received an Air Force Achievement Medal July 25 in recognition for saving a woman’s life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis Loza Gutierrez)

Tech. Sgt. Kelly Bales, a training specialist with the 316th Training Squadron, poses for a photo with the Norma Brown Building in the background. Sergeant Bales received an Air Force Achievement Medal July 25 in recognition for saving a woman’s life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis Loza Gutierrez)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Every person currently serving in the Air Force has been trained to a certain degree on how to administer life saving skills in the battlefield--skills such as Self-Aid and Buddy Care. For servicemembers it's not often one imagines using such training or skills to save the life of a civilian, but for Tech. Sgt. Kelly Bales, a training specialist with the 316th Training Squadron, that's exactly what took place.

On Wednesday morning, Col. Scott George, 17th Training Group commander, presented an Air Force Achievement Medal to the NCO for helping save the life of a woman in medical distress during a visit with his family to a theme park in San Antonio, Texas.
Sergeant Bales recalled what happened that fateful day.

"I was in line getting refreshments. My family had gone off to see one of the theme park shows and I remember seeing a woman lying face down on the ground," said Sgt. Bales.
"There was a group of people near her. The people near her seemed calm and other people kept passing by just going about their business, so I didn't give too much credibility to the situation at that point because I thought she was with them and she may simply be resting or taking a nap, but something just didn't seem right," added the observant NCO.

Moments later, one of the people near the distressed woman rushed to the front of the line and asked for a drink. Sergeant Bales said that was the point that prompted him to take action and rush to the woman, putting his life-saving skills training to use.

"Once I reached the lady, I asked her if she was okay. She attempted to speak, but her words were incoherent," said the concerned sergeant.

A few seconds after reaching the woman, Sergeant Bales was joined by a gentleman who turned out to be an off-duty Louisiana State Trooper.

"Together we continued to do what we could to keep her alive until the EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and the theme park's personnel arrived and could take her to a hospital for medical attention," said Sergeant Bales.

According to the citation that accompanied Sergeant Bale's recent decoration, he "assessed the woman's condition, monitoring her vital signs, and assisting with crowd control as bystanders congregated around the patient."

When the woman went into respiratory arrest, Sergeant Bales assisted the trooper in trying to resuscitate the woman by continuing to take the woman's vital signs while the trooper performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"She wasn't breathing, although she still had a pulse, but it was getting weaker as time passed," he said. Moments later, EMTs arrived and took over.

Sergeant Bales continued to help, by gathering the woman's personal items and finding a set of IDs among the woman's belongings which helped responders identify her and other persons that may have been with her that day.

Sergeant Bales said he credits in great part the life-saving skills his military training has afforded him.

"I know I would not have been able to respond the way I did had it not been for my Self -Aid Buddy Care training," said sergeant Bales.

After seeing the EMTs transport the distressed individual and giving his account to the patrolman on scene, the Goodfellow Airman said a small prayer for the woman.

"I thought it only proper given the situation. I asked the Lord to provide insight to the responders so they could further help the lady," said Sergeant Bales.

Aside from the outstanding Self-Aid and Buddy Care training that the Air Force teaches, Sergeant Bales also attributes his actions that day to another "force" or higher power.

"I strongly believe the Lord intended for me to be there that day to help save that woman's life," said Sergeant Bales.

"I would not have been there had it not been for Chap. (Martin) Barnes, who offered to step in for me as choir director for that same weekend, so I could spend time with my family after recently graduating from the (Goodfellow) NCO Academy," said the church-going father of two.

While Sergeant Bales may be impressive, his actions are no surprise to those that know him, like Chaplain Barnes.

"Sergeant Bales is no stranger to helping others," said Chaplain Barnes.

Sergeant Bales continually dedicates his time and efforts for noble causes.

In December 2006 he helped organize a group of people to sing Christmas carols to patients during a visit coordinated by the Goodfellow Top Three to the veterans' hospital in Big Spring, Texas.

He also took a group of Goodfellow students to help repair a church in Rowena, Texas prepare for its 100th anniversary.

He's also led recycling projects on base--most recently with his NCO Academy Class, where they coordinated the first-ever Goodfellow Recycles Day.

"Sergeant Bales is a man of tremendous faith and generosity, and he has a big heart. I have no doubt he will continue to do great things." concluded Chaplain Barnes.