RAF MILDENHALL, England — A staff sergeant from the 100th Operations Support Squadron received an Air Force Achievement Medal on Jan. 25 after his quick thinking possibly helped save the life of a British man.
Jeffrey Thomas of Charleston, 100th OSS Airfield Management operations supervisor, had been visiting his airman on base Jan. 19 after finishing a three-day NCO course.
He said it re-energized him and inspired him to talk with his airman.
As he was driving home from base during the early hours of the morning, Thomas noticed a man staggering along the side of the road in the snow.
“He was obviously in trouble and cold, as he kept hugging himself and shivering,” Thomas said, adding that the man wasn’t wearing a jacket even though it was bitterly cold.
“I slowed down, rolled my window down, and asked if I could give him a ride somewhere,” he said.
The man didn’t reply but kept walking. Thomas said he kept calling to the man, urging him to get in the vehicle so he could give him a ride to wherever he was going.
“Eventually. I convinced him to get in the car, once I told him I was in the Air Force,” Thomas recalled. “He climbed in the back seat, and his body was very rigid. He was obviously not in good shape.”
Thomas said he continued driving and asking questions. Trying to find out who the man was and where he lived was Thomas’ goal so he could get the man home safely.
“He handed me an ID card, and he kept (mumbling) and saying ‘thank you,’ ” the airfield management operations supervisor said.
“I decided to take him to the Ministry of Defense security members search barn on base so they could help him. As I pulled up, one of them was walking in front of my car, and I started frantically honking my horn to get his attention.”
Thomas quickly explained what happened, handed the security member the stranger’s ID and said the man needed medical attention. The security staff told Thomas they’d been on the lookout for the man and had been made aware he was missing.
“They quickly got him out of the car and into the search barn, where they sat him straight in front of the big heater and wrapped him in a foil blanket and warm jacket,” Thomas said.
Airmen with the 100th Security Forces Squadron then appeared on scene and took Thomas’ details.
“I was very distracted because of what had just happened, and just watched the MOD (give) him medical attention,” he said. “I suggested they give him a hot drink to warm him up internally, so they gave him a cup of tea.
“I picked him up to be nice. If I was in the same situation, I’d hope somebody would do that for me,” Thomas said. “But I’ve been told by a few people, that’s not a very popular thing do (for safety reasons).”
The man was suffering from hypothermia. Safety reasons aside, if Thomas hadn’t taken the time to stop and rescue him, there may have been a completely different outcome.
“I would have taken him to his apartment if he’d told me where it was,” Thomas said. “But I knew he was in bad shape and needed medical attention. I’m glad (the MOD security staff) reacted the way they did and put him in an ambulance.”
Col. Nancy Bozzer, 100th Operations Group commander, presented the medal to Thomas.
Karen Abeyasekere is a journalist for the 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs office.