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99 AS members step forward in time of need

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- Deployed members from the 89th Airlift Wing were supporting the mission in the Horn of Africa when they aided an elderly South African Feb. 1 in Nairobi, Kenya. 

While the deployed members were preparing to go to dinner at a hotel, Tech. Sgt. Bryant K. Billingsley, 99th Airlift Squadron Flight Attendants Scheduling chief and 379th Expeditionary Operations Group Distinguished Visitor Flight Attendants NCOIC, and Maj. Michael W. Eaton, 89 OG Current Operations duty officer and 379 EOG Coalition DV Flight Detachment Operations director and aircraft commander, were waiting for their wingmen to regroup in the hotel lounge when they heard someone from the far side of the lobby call for a doctor.

Sergeant Billingsley went to investigate the situation and see if his assistance could be used.

''Unbeknownst to ... us, an elderly gentleman from South Africa, who was a member of an international World Bank conference, had collapsed without warning," said Major Eaton.

A hotel manager, who had some cardiopulmonary resuscitation training eight years prior, and another conference member were attempting to provide aid to the victim.

The man's heart and breathing had stopped.

When Sergeant Billingsley arrived amongst the milling conference attendees, he explained that he was not a doctor, but he knew first aid and CPR.

He could give support to the victim who was exhibiting signs of oxygen deprivation.

Sergeant Billingsley immediately took charge of the situation and began to administer CPR, while at the same time explaining the correct procedures to the two individuals assisting.

After about 10 to 15 minutes, Sergeant Billingsley realized it was going to be a while before help arrived.

He then asked for Major Eaton to be paged.

''As soon as I got there, it was obvious that Bryant had the situation under his control; he was directing one individual to administer breathing, performing chest compressions and attempting to coax the individual to awareness," the major said.

''As I joined the group, there were a few ragged breaths from the victim, and some color was returning to his face," Major Eaton said. ''Bryant continued directing the situation, until the emergency medical personnel arrived."

After performing CPR for an hour, the medical personnel arrived. Sergeant Billingsley briefed them on what he had seen and done. The major and sergeant then helped the medical personnel rush the victim to the ambulance.

''Throughout the situation, Bryant was calm and collected, constantly speaking to the victim, trying to get any response and directing the other three of us who were helping," Major Eaton said. ''It was an awe-inspiring demonstration of personal fortitude, intimate knowledge and genuine compassion."

''Unfortunately, we found out after a couple of hours that the individual passed away en route to the hospital," he said. ''It was obvious to me that if Bryant had not been there, the victim would have surely died on the floor of the hotel, with no chance for medical personnel to arrive and provide assistance."

''After the situation was over, many hotel staff and conference members came by to thank Bryant for his actions and were genuinely relieved that someone was available who could take charge of the chaotic situation and provide assistance," he said.

''These good words from the night before continued the next morning as we were checking out; a hotel staff member approached me and asked if we were the Americans who had helped the hotel guest in distress," said the major. ''After telling her that we were, she introduced me to a member of the South African embassy who wished to convey her gratitude on behalf of the embassy for Sergeant Billingsley's actions. She informed us that she would be contacting the U.S. embassy to convey her appreciation."

Editor's note: Due to mission requirements, Sergeant Billingsley was not available for interview.
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