Every training counts

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rhonda Smith
  • Air University public affairs

The Air Force and Space Force is renowned for the training that keep Airmen and Guardians ready to serve at a moment’s notice. In the case of one individual, her training enabled her to save a life.

Staff Sgt. Shakira Mathis, the Air Force Chaplain Corps College’s noncommissioned officer in charge of operations management, was on official travel when she saved a life using her Air Force training earlier this year.

Mathis decided to have dinner with some of her classmates. Everything was going well; however, things turned unexpected when she noticed that one of her companions started to show signs that something was not quite right. The individual suddenly fell unconscious and others began to scream, asking for help. Using the training taught to her in Self Aid Buddy Care, Mathis immediately tried to get a verbal response from the individual while checking their pulse. When no reply was forthcoming and no pulse found, she called 911 and began chest compressions.

Mathis describes the experience as surreal, not having time to think, only react and relying on her training.

“I can’t tell you what was going through my head at that moment. I had a split second where I thought, ‘somebody has to do something,” recalls Mathis. “Then I took a deep breath and began helping the individual.”

As Mathis was speaking on the phone with first responders and continuing chest compressions, she felt the individual gasp, and the color started coming back to their face before slowly returning to consciousness. Once paramedics arrived, they confirmed that without CPR, the outcome of this situation may have been different.

“I still haven’t fully processed everything, but knowing that the individual is going to be okay means everything to me,” reflected Mathis. “I’ve always valued any training provided to me, but this event reinforced the importance of caring for people and taking every training seriously because you never know when you may need to react quickly to a situation and utilize what you know.”

Although Mathis wishes the incident did not happen, she is grateful for the training and knowledge that enabled her to appropriately handle the event.

“As Religious Affairs Airmen in the Chaplain Corps, our vision is to care for Airmen more than anyone thinks is possible. It is what I love most about being an RA. If I were ever in a similar situation, I would have wanted someone to react and to care so that I could go back home to my family and my boys,” Mathis said. “When we are separated from our closest family and friends, we rely on our wingmen and leaders to be there for us in time of need, and that is how it should be.”