Answering the call, Andersen’s 2018 Military Vanguard award winner

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Gerald R. Willis
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

The fight-or-flight response enables humans to respond quickly to a wide variety of stressful, life-threatening situations but not everybody responds the same.


For Staff Sgt. Joey J.C. Pecha, 734th Air Mobility Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, this response has been tested twice in near life or death situations. In both cases, Pecha did not shy away, instead he worked through the stress and saved the lives of two individuals.


For his actions, Pecha was nominated for the Non Commissioned Officers Association’s Vanguard award that was presented April 22, 2018. The award, which is presented annually to recognize one Noncommissioned Officer from each of the uniformed services, is made to honor those individuals who have performed a particularly heroic act that resulted in the saving of a life or the prevention of serious injury.


While participating in a half-marathon on Guam, Pecha came upon a disoriented runner and, after recognizing she was in distress, immediately began to assess the victim’s condition. The victim was suffering a heat stroke and severe dehydration. Pecha, the first on the scene, cared for the distressed runner until emergency services arrived.


“In the moment, I was very calm,” Pecha said. “I just stopped and said ‘Okay, this is what I was trained on’ and I knew I needed to stay calm. I owe it to the SABC (Self-Aid Buddy Care) course, everything I knew came from that.”


The U.S. Air Force’s Self-Aid Buddy Care course is a lifesaving training course each Airman receives yearly. SABC encompasses basic life support and limb-saving techniques that can be performed in an emergency situation.


The second time Pecha found himself in a position to act, Pecha was driving to pick up his daughter from school and was directly behind a car accident. Immediately jumping into action, he ensured the scene was safe and stepped into a command role over the accident helping injured passengers and prepping the victim for emergency services.


“When I got onto the scene, the accident had just happened. Three of the four passengers had already begun exiting the vehicle when I noticed the driver was still in distress,” Pecha said. “She was completely out of it and was losing consciousness.”


After working to get the pinned door open, Pecha began checking for the ABC’s (airway, breathing and circulation) as the victim lost consciousness still in the car. Pecha quickly began life saving, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and was able to get the victim to come to. The victim began complaining of extreme neck pain and was going into shock.


“I knew I needed to find a way to isolate her neck to stop the movement,” Pecha said. “I reached into the back and made a make-shift neck brace from school books. Again, my Air Force training just kicked in and I was able to think clearly on what I needed to do.”


Pecha is a Guam native and has been an active member of his community since being stationed back here five years ago. Ensuring his Airmen and peers are trained and capable of helping others is one way he gives back to the community.


“In the middle of everything, I noticed some people who wanted to help but couldn’t or didn’t know what to do,” Pecha said. “Having the proper training can make the difference in a life or death situation every day. We in the military have a duty to be prepared physically and mentally to help not only our fellow Airmen but anyone that needs it.”