POZNAN AVENIDA, Poland — U.S. Air Force members are sworn to protect not only the lives of their own countrymen, but also the lives of fellow allies.
Two warfighters from the 4th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron were able to put those vows into practice May 4 when they saved the life of a Polish boy.
Tech. Sgt. Luis Garcia and Staff Sgt. Iliya Tereschenko, Tactical Air Control Party members, deployed to Poland in April. The pair took a trip to the Poznan Avenida mall when they saw a lone boy collapse on the floor, convulsing violently.
“Foam started coming out of his mouth fairly fast when he dropped to the ground,” Tereschenko recalls. “He started shaking and that’s when I was like ‘Something’s not right,’ and I rushed to him.”
Tereschenko had seen these signs once before in high school: the boy was suffering from a seizure. In what Tereschenko describes as instinct, the duo immediately took action and positioned the boy on his side. Tereschenko placed a backpack under the boy’s head and held him to avoid self-injury. He inspected the boy’s mouth for any obstructions that might interrupt his breathing and made sure he wasn’t biting down on his tongue.
“There’s a bit of a shock element to it, and then it goes away and you’re like ‘Oh, I can do something about it,” Tereschenko said. “So why not?”
Another problem dawned on the duo as a crowd began to gather: the language barrier. It was one thing to encounter an emergency, it was another thing entirely to have an emergency in another country where one does not speak the language.
“It was confusing [because] we do not know the language and it was our first time at the mall,” Garcia said. “We went and saw the child laying on the floor and there is nobody around and we are like ‘Holy crap, what do we do?’”
Luckily, the two were able to find a bystander that spoke some English to help translate for them. The boy’s condition began to stabilize soon afterward and he regained consciousness.
“I was really happy about that,” Tereschenko said. “Because that is one of those points where this could be a mild seizure or something way worse.”
Mall paramedics showed up, with first responders arriving soon after.
While saving Polish lives is not a regular part of the 4 EASOS’ job description, working with Polish forces and other NATO allies is a part of their regular job duties while deployed. 435th Air Expeditionary and Air Ground Operations Wings TACP warfighters also work with Polish allies during exercises and integration events.
“We show them how we run things, and then we pick up on how they do it,” Tereschenko said. “When it comes to big exercises, we [all] bring what we have to offer to the table. If there’s something they need training on or vice versa we get together and help each other out there.”
TACPs primarily provide the U.S. Army with airspace coordination and integration. TACP assistance also facilitates the production of field tested techniques, tactics and procedures which strengthens the bond required to have an effective partnership with Polish military forces.
Despite saving a life, neither warfighter would call themselves heroes. Tereschenko felt fortunate to be equipped with the training to save his life and be there at the right time.
“I think everyone would have done the same thing, especially if they had the knowledge or training,” Tereschenko said.
Garcia noted that there are so many more service members who have achieved greater feats.
“It never feels justified having the knowledge of individuals that have sacrificed much more, including their own lives, in the service of others in need,” Garcia said.
The pair has not seen the boy since that day, but they were reassured of his condition after seeing him regain consciousness, motor ability, and letting the first responders take over.
“I do not like being an observer,” Tereschenko said. “If I have something to contribute I’ll do it, but I do not like to watch.”
Misfortune, whether at the mall or in contested environments, can strike at any time. The Air Force’s presence in NATO countries is part of the U.S.’ commitment to supporting allies in the event of emergencies.
“It can happen at any time,” Tereschenko said. “What matters is that you have training and can contribute. I do not think of it as any more than that.”