Loadmaster acts on instinct, saves man’s life

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jonathan Bass
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As a child, he didn’t know those long walks with his father would one day save a man’s life.

Senior Airman Anthony Oldham, 37th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, used the lessons his father taught him while on temporary assignment to Poland.

Oldham’s father was an Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape instructor. Growing up, he shared some of his knowledge with Oldham. His teachings stuck with Oldham for all those years.

On October 17, 2015, in Poland, Oldham encountered a crowd of civilian onlookers standing in a circle; Oldham’s natural curiosity then got the better of him.

“I didn’t see him at first,” said Oldham, a Peoria, Ariz., native. “Curiosity is a natural thing I guess. I was being nosy and looking in to see what was happening. I looked through and there’s this guy laying on the floor with a pool of blood by his head growing rapidly.”

Oldham noticed that no one seemed to be doing anything for the injured man. He distinctly remembers someone casually puffing on a cigarette, while watching the man bleed out. This was where Oldham realized he needed to step in.

“If it’s not saving lives it’s something else phenomenal,” said Lt. Col. Barry King, 37th AS commander. “Senior Airman Oldham supports the squadron standard of superior performance.”

King added that while he was amazed to hear about the event, he wasn’t surprised that it was Oldham who stepped into action.

“The Blue Tails amaze me daily,” said King. “This truly inspired me. Our missions aren’t cookie-cutter and we routinely have to find new ways to accomplish our missions. Oldham fits right in with this mentality.”
Acting on the instincts his father instilled in him, Oldham fought through the crowd to the bleeding man.

“I started pushing through (the crowd),” Oldham said. “I don’t know what I felt I guess, it was just – natural.”

Oldham got down next to the man and began to assess the situation. Just then, a local woman identified herself as a medical student. Oldham directed her to use the head-tilt chin lift method to ensure the man continued breathing while also keeping his head stable.

Oldham then noticed the blood spurting from a gash in the man’s neck. Ask anyone in Oldham’s family though, and they’ll tell you that Oldham doesn’t like blood.

“It was pouring out,” Oldham said. “I reached in and pinched as best I could. It was quite unpleasant.”

The man had a laceration to his neck which severed his jugular vein.

“Credit to my dad,” Oldham said, chuckling. “He taught me how to check pulses and how to stop bleeding.”

Oldham directed the medical student to have someone call emergency medical services. Then, he waited.

“It felt like a long time,” said Oldham. “But it was probably only five minutes.”

Paramedics arrived, pushed through the crowd, and took over the situation with no hesitation, Oldham said.

Realizing the climax of his night just occurred, Oldham decided it was time to head back to his hotel. A kindly bartender helped him clean the blood off his hands and clothes, then he called a cab to take him to his room.

While normally an extrovert, Oldham chose not to make a bigger deal of this than it was.

“I didn’t really talk about it,” Oldham said. “It wasn’t something I did for recognition, I acted on instinct because it was the right thing to do.”

Recognition would come his way anyhow. For his efforts, Oldham was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for an act of courage.

“Senior Airman Oldham showed no concern for his own safety,” said King. “He wasn’t concerned about nationalities or the danger, just life.”

Oldham said his dad was very proud of him, but he’s just glad he got to use the knowledge his father passed on to him to help someone else.