Wright-Patt Airman awarded for heroic acts

Joshua O'Sullivan was honored for his actions after a suicide bomber struck Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. (Courtesy: Air Force File Photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - A Senior Airman at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is being honored for his actions after a suicide bomber struck Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.

Joshua O'Sullivan is a respiratory therapist from the 88th Medical Group at Wright-Patt. He was attached to a Critical Care Air Transportation team deployed to Bagram in October of 2016. O'Sullivan was at the base for just about a month and winding down from his night shift when he heard an explosion outside his dorm. He says he called his command center and then ran down to the where the blast came from.

"That's when I started coming up on the people that had already been hit and on the ground," O'Sullivan said.

A suicide bomber had managed to get inside the base and had blown themselves up killing two U.S. soldiers and two U.S. contractors. Seventeen other people were injured, some critically. The Taliban would later claim responsibility.

O'Sullivan says as he came up to the scene of the blast, he identified himself as a critical care medic and began to access injury patterns and who was in the most critical of need.

"We had several very serious injuries that could have potentially gone further south if not noted and moved to that next care that was needed," O'Sullivan said.

O'Sullivan says before he was deployed, his wife gave him a pair of utility sheers capable of cutting through clothing and other barriers obstructing the view of the patient's wounds. That day he was wearing those on his belt along with some gauze. The sheers he says were crucial because it saved him valuable time accessing injuries.

"To take out those sheers immediately and to just go through anything that was there, to get to the wound I needed to get to, allowed me to analyze what we needed to be focusing on and who needed to get out of there first," O'Sullivan said. "There is a laser focus and you're trying to make the best decisions that you can in a very short amount of time."

In the span of less than ten minutes, O'Sullivan says he was able to help stabilize the injured and load them onto transports to get them to a nearby hospital for surgery.

"As a total amount it was somewhere between 15 and 17 individuals we got through before we got to the hospital," O'Sullivan said. "And then we continued to work on those patients on that side as well."

O'Sullivan says he was moving so fast he didn't have a chance to process much at the time other than making sure the injured were taken care of. But he says he does remember one interaction he had with a patient.

"It was a female individual," O'Sullivan said. "A female army individual I believe and she was able to squeeze my hand and look me in the eye and that kind of connection of OK you're going to a plane you're getting out of here."

The Air Force says O'Sullivan's actions helped save lives and awarded him the Air Force Commendation Medal. He was also invited to come to Washington, D.C. in early August as a Portrait in Courage honoree.

"There's a lot of people in the military that do amazing things everyday," O'Sullivan said. "So to be put there in that group is extremely humbling."

Before joining the Air Force 6 years ago, O'Sullivan had been working as an emergency medical technician in and near his hometown of Elizabeth, Illinois. He also volunteered for emergency and disaster management relief efforts, such as hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and earthquakes, in the southern United States and Haiti.

For more about O'Sullivan and his actions that day, you can read an article written by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base here

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