04/23/02 - ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England (AFPN) -- Staff Sgt. Tracy Barnett was in the right place at the right time, but more importantly, he reacted in the right way. For that reason the pararescueman is winner of the Vanguard Award presented annually for heroic action.
The award, sponsored by the Non Commissioned Officers Association, recognizes a noncommissioned officer who has performed a heroic act, on or off duty, which resulted in the saving of life or the prevention of serious injury.
The heroic deed took place July 21 while Barnett was assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron and on temporary duty in Germany training with Army Special Forces. While off duty at a local parachute drop zone near Stuttgart, Barnett witnessed a civilian sport jumper plummeting to earth while cutting away his tangled main parachute. The jumper managed to deploy his reserve canopy but continued to spiral down and hit the ground hard.
Only 100 feet from the impact area, Barnett instinctively sprang into action and immediately began drawing upon years of pararescue training in combat trauma. Using a personal medical he kit always carries, Barnett repositioned the jumperís broken jaw to establish a critical airway for breathing.
When a doctor arrived, Barnett transitioned into role of assistant and helped insert a tube to allow the patient to breath. After placing a cervical spine collar on the patient and placing him on a backboard, Barnett then helped load the patient onto an awaiting helicopter.
Barnettís action made the difference between life and death, and helped prevent lifelong paralysis, according to the trauma center team who treated the patient. Barnett was recently reassigned to Pope Air Force Base, N.C.
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