PHOENIX SKY HARBOR AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE --
The evening calm was suddenly shattered. The alarm signaling incoming indirect fire blared from the base's warning system.
Master Sgt. Matthew Haefemeyer, 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, was working at his desk when he heard the alarm. As he quickly put on his individual body armor, a projectile exploded in front of the building. The explosion shook the building and shot shrapnel throughout it. He immediately hit the ground and waited to make sure more indirect fire was not incoming.
Once the all-clear was sounded, he reported in for accountability. It was at this point that Haefemeyer learned there were injured people in front of the building.
"I immediately took off running out the door and down the steps," said Haefemeyer, who is deployed from the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Phoenix. "When I got to the bottom of the steps I saw blood splattered all over the concrete near a vehicle."
There was a victim in the vehicle and service members were rendering aid to him. Then somebody called out that there were more victims. Haefemeyer saw someone lying on the ground and immediately ran to help.
"I saw that his left lower leg was all bloody, so I started opening an [Individual First Aid Kit] that had been dropped on the ground near the victim," he said. "I started to cut his pants near the wound with my knife, but then I handed my knife to another person so they could open an IFAK package. Another service member used scissors to finish cutting his pants, exposing the wound. I then pulled the victim's boot off while another person removed his sock."
The victim had a large gaping wound that stretched from his the knee to his ankle, exposing the bone and most of the inner leg.
Haefemeyer said training such as Self Aid Buddy Care and Combat Lifesaving Skills were instrumental in preparing him for this moment. "I just seemed to know what to do without thinking."
He packed gauze into the victim's wound and then wrapped it with a bandage to seal it. When the ambulance arrived he helped assembled a stretcher and placed the victim onto the stretcher and into the ambulance.
"This was the last thing I ever expected to be doing and I was just hoping he would live and not lose his leg," he said. "It felt great to help someone in need - it was like no other feeling I've ever experienced."