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Buckley Hero: 'Focus on my voice'

Senior Airman Robert Duchesne III, 460th Operations Group satellite operator evaluator, stands near a road Dec. 2, 2013, where a near-deadly car accident occurred in February in Aurora, Colo. Duchesne, also a volunteer firefighter, was the Buckley nominee to receive the Vanguard Award for saving the lives of four people in the crash. The award is given to a member of each military branch who has performed a heroic act and made an attempt to save a life or prevent serious injury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury/Released)

Senior Airman Robert Duchesne III, 460th Operations Group satellite operator evaluator, stands near a road Dec. 2, 2013, where a near-deadly car accident occurred in February in Aurora, Colo. Duchesne, also a volunteer firefighter, was the Buckley nominee to receive the Vanguard Award for saving the lives of four people in the crash. The award is given to a member of each military branch who has performed a heroic act and made an attempt to save a life or prevent serious injury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury/Released)

Senior Airman Robert Duchesne III, a 460th Operations Group satellite systems operator evaluator, received the Buckley nomination for the Vanguard Award from the Non Commissioned Officers Association for his bravery in saving the lives of four victims in a deadly car accident that occurred Feb. 21, 2013, in Aurora, Colo. Duchesne is also a volunteer firefighter. The award is given to a member of each military branch who has performed a heroic act and made an attempt to save a life or prevent serious injury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury/Released)

Senior Airman Robert Duchesne III, a 460th Operations Group satellite systems operator evaluator, received the Buckley nomination for the Vanguard Award from the Non Commissioned Officers Association for his bravery in saving the lives of four victims in a deadly car accident that occurred Feb. 21, 2013, in Aurora, Colo. Duchesne is also a volunteer firefighter. The award is given to a member of each military branch who has performed a heroic act and made an attempt to save a life or prevent serious injury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Without warning, a car races toward a red light on one of the busiest streets during rush hour. As the car picks up speed, it quickly closes in on another vehicle causing an unimaginable, life-threatening impact for the three other people involved.

What happened next was nothing but instinct and adrenaline for Senior Airman Robert Duchesne III, 2nd Space Warning Squadron satellite systems operator evaluator and also a volunteer firefighter.

As one car slams into another, sending it into a dizzying amount of spins, Duchesne, instinctively acts on his training as an emergency medical technician, immediately working to save the four people involved.

Duchesne was driving back from lunch when he became the first responder to a multiple vehicle crash. Because of his brave actions, he is credited with saving the lives of all those involved, including a possible cervical spine injury and a woman who was seven-months pregnant.

"I saw a lot of things as an EMT so this wasn't anything I wasn't used to," said Duchesne. "I wasn't scared. I stayed very calm, but it's because I've done this since I was 18 years old."

While safely maneuvering traffic himself, Duchesne quickly parallel parked his car behind the wreck. He diverted all eight lanes of traffic, making sure other cars stayed well away from the scene.

"That's what we'd do with our ambulance," Duchesne remembered. He was more concerned about a person being hit by an oncoming car than his vehicle.

Although the victims were slightly apprehensive at first, Duchesne believes his Air Force uniform helped put their minds at ease.

"I think they trusted me a little bit more with the uniform on," he said. "I just talked to them. Focus on my voice. You're OK. Everything's going to be OK,'" he reassured them.

When the fire department arrived on the scene, Duchesne directed the emergency responders toward the most crucially wounded, an older woman with a possible spinal injury who had veered off the road.

"I always follow the triage," said Duchesne, recalling what he learned as an EMT. "We learn to always start with the ones that need urgent care first-what patient's more critical."

Duchesne is the Buckley Air Force Base nominee to receive the Vanguard Award from the Non Commissioned Officers Association for his outstanding selflessness. The annual award is given to members of each military branch who perform a heroic act, resulting in the saving of a life or preventing a serious injury.

According to the Goodfellow Air Force Base website, the act must be a voluntary action, initiated by the nominee and not a result of directions or orders. It must have been a legitimate attempt to save a life or prevent serious injury to another person or persons.

Duchesne credits his motivation to help those in need with the way he was raised, recognizing his dad as his biggest inspiration and mentor. The smile lines around his eyes deepen as he remembers his childhood hero.

"I grew up seeing my dad helping everyone out," Duchesne recalled. "He was a police officer."

Duchesne acknowledged that growing up, like most teenagers, he didn't want to be like his parents, "But I found I'm everything like my dad," he said proudly.

Although thankful, for him it was just another day.

"To be nominated for this award seems selfish," a humble Duchesne explained. "I know any of us would have done the same thing. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was just my job-not only as a firefighter, but as a member of the military."

"It feels good to make a difference in someone's life," he said, "to be there on their worst possible day."

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