552nd ACW Airman awarded Army medal for heroic actions
By Tech. Sgt. Mike Andriacco, U.S. Air Forces Central Command
/ Published December 19, 2012
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- A deployed Airman was awarded the U.S. Army Commendation Medal in a ceremony here, Dec. 7, with a citation that reads in part "For heroic and selfless action in response to a life or death situation."
U.S. Air Force Capt. Joshua Allen, a Combined Air and Space Operations Center senior air defense officer, was presented the medal by Army Brig. Gen. James Dickinson, the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command commanding general, for saving the life of an Army Soldier on Oct. 7.
Allen and Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Fallin, a 32nd AAMDC missile defense planner, were forward deployed to participate in a joint training exercise in Hawaii in early October. During some off time, they decided to go snorkeling near one of the local beaches and teamed up to keep an eye on each other. They were glad they did.
"We partnered up to keep safe and this is a situation where the 'Wingman' and 'Battle Buddy' system worked as prescribed," Allen said.
The duo swam approximately 100 yards off shore and explored the area a bit before deciding to return to shore. It was during this return trip that Fallin started having problems.
"As we turned back to shore I began to experience shortness of breath and muscle weakness," Fallin said. "I attempted to make it back to shore until my vision began to narrow, signaling that I might lose consciousness."
Around the same time, Allen said he noticed Fallin was falling behind and was signaling that he needed help.
"I went back to him and he explained he was having trouble breathing," Allen said. "I told him to grab onto my back and that I would swim us both in. After a few minutes I realized he wasn't improving and focused on getting to shore as fast as I could. It wasn't until we got to the beach that I noticed how blue his face was."
When the pair made it to shore, two bystanders helped an exhausted Allen move Fallin from the water to await emergency medical technicians. The EMTs transported Fallin to Tripler Army Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with reverse pressure pulmonary edema.
"It means the pressure in my lunges reversed and I began to absorb fluid from my body into my lungs," Fallin said. "It's caused by a restricted airway."
In this case, doctors believe that a combination of a faulty snorkel and a fast shift from warm water to colder, deeper water, contributed to the condition. Though critical for a time, Fallin expects to suffer no long-term effects from his injury.
As for Allen, he credits his fitness regimen with ensuring he was prepared to act and save his friend's life.
"My habits don't have me in the gym seven days a week," he said. "But the three to four times were enough to allow me to help my wingman when I wasn't expecting it."
Allen, a member of the 966th Airborne Air Control Squadron, is deployed from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and said that regardless of physical condition, he thinks anyone put in the same position would have done the same to help a friend.
"I don't feel like a hero," he said. "But I'm sure Chief Fallin was thankful to have me there to help him."
Fallin agrees wholeheartedly.
"He can be my wingman anytime!" he said.