PYONGTAEK, South Korea — It was just getting light on an icy Monday morning when the airmen found traffic suddenly had slowed on the highway back to Kunsan Air Base.

They were part of an ambulance crew that had transported a patient from their base to the Army’s 121 General Hospital in Seoul.

Among them was an Air Force captain who is a nurse at Kunsan, a Security Forces officer who had helped escort the patient and three other airmen from the base hospital.

At about 7 a.m. on Jan. 10, they still were about an hour from base, on Highway 15. Figuring out that an accident had caused the bottleneck took just a moment. A fuel truck had veered off the roadway and plunged into a rice field.

The nurse, Maj. Michael Price of Kunsan’s 8th Medical Group, told the driver to stop. Price was a captain at the time. Also in the ambulance were Tech. Sgt. Jack Cummins, Staff Sgt. David Lamyott, Senior Airman Candace Baylor and Airman 1st Class Nikkea Yancey. All are members of Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing, known as the Wolf Pack.

The fuel truck driver had been thrown through the windshield but was alive. One airman stayed with the ambulance. The others, Price said, made their way down a steep, 25-foot embankment.

“One of the first things we noticed though — which actually scared the heck out of us — was the fuel truck was actually spilling fuel,” Price said. The truck’s engine still was running.

“So we made a decision to get him out of there as soon as possible,” Price said.

“Most of his injuries were internal,” he said. “He definitely got some broken ribs. You could see from the way he was breathing. … With every breath outwards, exhalation, he would moan in pain.”

They fastened a plastic C-collar around his neck as a precaution against nerve damage once they had to move him. They also mopped the blood from his head with gauze.

“I thought it was very dangerous,” said Cummins of the 8th Medical Operations Squadron. “The engine was running ... it was some sort of tanker and it was dripping ... I thought it could blow up.

“The toughest was carrying this pretty big guy basically up this hill, back up to the highway.”

Within ten minutes from when they’d started, they had the driver back on the highway, where by then a Korean ambulance had arrived. It took him to a hospital, Price said.

The airmen said they had no details on the driver’s condition but understood that he had survived the accident.

Thursday, the Wolf Pack’s commander honored the five in a brief ceremony. Col. William Uhle gave each a commander’s coin in recognition of their actions last month.

For the airmen, stopping to help was a matter of duty, Cummins said.

“I thought, somebody’s life is in danger and we’re in the military over here and we’re supposed to be ambassadors for our country over here,” he said. “It was just the right thing to do. Somebody had to help him.”

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