Airman's training benefits injured at accident scene

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
Witnessing a motorcycle accident while on leave in his native Oregon, Staff Sgt. Vernon Pifer put his Air Force training into practice.

Heading up the side of a hill in the Cascade mountain range July 28, Pifer - who works in the 402nd Electronics Maintenance Group's Operations Office - decided to get involved.

He told his father to pull over, where he joined about five people who were assisting.

With adrenaline pumping, he shepherded traffic around the scene, where a couple in their 60s had crashed their motorcycle while going downhill near a left-hand curve.

Pifer said it was the first time he's had the opportunity to help at an accident scene.

"The most I've ever done is help someone push their car off to the side of the road," said Pifer.

He directed traffic around the crash, while a school bus driver was providing first-aid kits and a nurse was aiding the injured.

Not only did he provide direction for motorists, but he gathered supplies that the nurse was asking for. He even stepped over into nearby woods to grab two big sticks for a makeshift tourniquet to help with the victim's injuries.

"It felt like the majority of the time I was just holding a blanket over the man so he wouldn't get burned or dehydrated," he said, "but looking back, I did play a major role in organizing and directing the other first responders.

"I was on complete auto-pilot," he added. "If I'd had time to think about it, I would have gotten nauseous right away. I mean as soon as I crossed the street to help, I saw the guy's leg and the huge pool of blood on the ground.

"You could clearly see it was broken in at least three places."

Pifer, who has served in the Air Force for 12 years, credits his military training, but also his sense of duty to help others in time of need.

"The training is everything," he paused. "Even if you only need it once - it really, truly matters." Coworker Teresa Maddox, 402nd EMXG equipment manager, agreed.

"A lot of people would have kept going and figured, 'Well there are people out there,' but Vernon knew to stop," she said. "He knew what needed to be done. He took charge and began to direct the others. What he did was truly heroic."

Pifer said he spent about an hour and a half on site.

According to news reports, the couple had been wearing their helmets and speed was not believed to be a contributing factor.

The motorcycle had gone in to the road's right shoulder, sideswiped a guardrail and fell on its side. "If you see an accident on the side of the road, and you have any inkling there's a problem - just stop," he said.

What to know
Staff Sgt. Vernon Pifer was recently honored with the Air Force Achievement Medal, presented by Col. Theresa Humphrey, 402nd Electronics Maintenance Group commander.