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How a Maxwell dental assistant saved a life

Col. Patrick J. Carley, 42nd Air Base Wing commander, exchanges a salute with Airman 1st Class Vashon Williams, 42nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron dental assistant, during a ceremony December. 19, 2019, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Following a four-car pileup, Williams stopped to apply a tourniquet to the leg of a victim, effectively saving their life.

Col. Patrick J. Carley, 42nd Air Base Wing commander, exchanges a salute with Airman 1st Class Vashon Williams, 42nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron dental assistant, during a ceremony December. 19, 2019, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Following a four-car pileup, Williams stopped to apply a tourniquet to the leg of a victim, effectively saving their life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Francisco Melendez-Espinosa)

Lt. Col. Scott Corey, 42nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron commander, presents  Airman 1st Class Vashon Williams, 42nd OMRS dental assistant, with the Air Force Achievement Medal during a ceremony December. 19, 2019, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Williams witnessed the aftermath of a four-car pileup and performed life-saving first aid to several victims.

Lt. Col. Scott Corey, 42nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron commander, presents Airman 1st Class Vashon Williams, 42nd OMRS dental assistant, with the Air Force Achievement Medal during a ceremony December. 19, 2019, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Williams witnessed the aftermath of a four-car pileup and performed life-saving first aid to several victims. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Francisco Melendez-Espinosa)

Airman 1st Class Vashon Williams, 42nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron dental assistant, receives applause during a ceremony in which he is presented with the Air Force Achievement Medal December. 19, 2019, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Williams applied life-saving first aid to victims of a four-car pileup.

Airman 1st Class Vashon Williams, 42nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron dental assistant, receives applause during a ceremony in which he is presented with the Air Force Achievement Medal December. 19, 2019, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Williams applied life-saving first aid to victims of a four-car pileup. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Francisco Melendez-Espinosa)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE, Ala. --

You’re finally getting off work, excited to start your weekend off with a bang by enjoying the night life with a cold drink in your hand. Instead, they’re covered in blood as you’re applying a tourniquet on a man that’s barely holding on to dear life in the middle of a road surrounded by twisted metal, screams and chaos.

For Airman 1st Class Vashon Williams, 42nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron dental assistant, this was his reality on September 7, 2019, when tragedy struck as when he and a friend encountered a four-car pileup that had injured over a dozen people along Highway 231.

“We hear a lady scream off to the side of the road that, ‘There’s a baby somewhere,’ so we’re just frantically looking for a baby,” Williams said. “I check on a woman screaming on the ground with a fractured leg, getting her name, where she’s from, just calming her down. She didn’t know what just happened. I got a civilian to look after her while I checked the surrounding area. As I’m looking, I overhear someone say, ‘We’ve got to put a tourniquet on this guy!’”

Williams runs over, notices the victim’s left leg is completely severed and quickly wraps a belt around what’s left of it to stop the bleeding.

“As we’re sitting there applying the tourniquet, [the victim] is talking to us because he has no idea what’s going on. As he’s talking, we’re keeping him calm, trying to keep the nerves down, and we’re waiting on paramedics. We examined his other leg that was very damaged, so we decided to apply another tourniquet on that leg, as well.”

Williams recounted that his eyes flared wide open as he applied first aid, filled with adrenaline and concern towards the people he’s tending to.

“After everything was over with, the first thing I did was call my cousin, she’s a medic, and I asked her if I did all the right things,” he said. “I was wondering if I had done proper procedure.”

Fast forward to December 19, its 3 p.m. in the Woods Auditorium on Maxwell Air Force Base, Williams’s eyes flare once again, this time due to standing in front of hundreds of his fellow Airmen for his act of heroism.

Walking alongside Williams on his way to receive his Air Force Achievement Medal is the 42nd OMRS commander, Lt. Col. Scott Corey.

“His training kicked in,” said Corey. “He’s got the baseline for those skillsets and kudos to him for keeping it together in that kind of environment. Not a lot of people might respond that way seeing that kind of trauma. Vashon was at the right place, at the right time, at the right moment and it just goes to show that in life we can be placed in spots that we must act. When going through life, these significant events can occur and I think it’s important to be prepared. We talk about readiness in the military, and I don’t care what AFSC you have, we’ve got to have some basic skills.”

Following the ceremony, Williams addressed his feelings.

“If it was me, I would have liked the same thing done for myself, especially if I was lying on the ground not knowing what was going on while missing a leg,” said Williams. “That was the first thing that came to my mind, do unto other what you want done unto you. That’s just the way I grew up, from my grandma’s teachings to my mom’s.”