Experiences of Airmen teach lessons in water safety

Base Info
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam - Signs are located at the entrance of Tarague Beach stating specific rules regarding the use of the beach. The rules are in place in order to promote safety and protect the environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staf Sgt. Alexandre Montes/Released)
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam - Signs are located at the entrance of Tarague Beach stating specific rules regarding the use of the beach. The rules are in place in order to promote safety and protect the environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staf Sgt. Alexandre Montes/Released)

Experiences of Airmen teach lessons in water safety

by: Airman 1st Class Arielle Vasquez, 36th Wing Public Affairs | .
Andersen Air Force Base | .
published: May 23, 2015

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Located on a tropical island surrounded by the clear waters of the Pacific, it is always good to explore the outdoors, soak up the sun, and enjoy water sports; however, with it comes potentially dangerous ocean conditions that everyone should be aware of.

Airmen should know their limitations, and practice essential safety measures such as having a wingman with them at all times.

In the event that a dangerous situation arises, it is crucial to have a wingman with you to lend a helping hand, or advise one another on issues, said Staff Sgt. Michael Evans, 36th Wing ground safety technician.

Spending time in the ocean can be quite exciting for many, but things can change for the worse in a matter of seconds.

While stationed at Andersen AFB several years ago, Master Sgt. Christopher L. Evans, 36th Mission Support Group flight chief, experienced what could have been a fatal diving incident. During one of his dives, he noticed his diving buddy was stung by a sea wasp, known as the most lethal jellyfish in the world. This happened approximately 70 feet underwater, which caused her to panic and exhaust all her air supply. Evans did the best he could to communicate with her via hand signals, and stayed linked to his buddy throughout their ascent to the surface. Once they got to the boat, she received medical assistance right away.

"My dive partner turned out to be fine, but because of the water conditions where the original sting occurred, this could have turned deadly," said Evans. "As a safety representative, I would advise others that safety is paramount, and sometimes it only takes the smallest, unthinkable actions to occur to lead into a large malfunction. Taking the time to plan out your actions, processes, no matter the objective or event can prove to be invaluable."

Sometimes not all situations end well.

Airman 1st Class Aisha Tillman, 36th Force Support Squadron customer support technician, was present during an unfortunate incident in Tumon when disaster struck in February. Tillman and her children were enjoying a day at the beach, but an hour into their time there, she said she heard screams about 10 feet away. When she looked around she noticed a crowd of people surrounding a toddler lying on the ground. Unfortunately help arrived too late, and during a moment of inattention where nobody realized what happened, the toddler had drowned.

"I know that I learned a lot from that experience," Tillman said. "I do think about it periodically, knowing it could have been different, and that I could have been the extra set of eyes. Always be aware of your surroundings and remember that the wingman concept is not only limited to the Air Force."

It is crucial to assess the conditions, know your capabilities, and always have a wingman accompanying you before entering the water to ensure a safe and enjoyable day at the beach.

"Being someone's wingman helps to keep each other in line and if any injuries happen it is assuring to know somebody is there for assistance," said Senior Master Sgt. Romar Balaoro, 36th WG safety superintendent. "Always have situational awareness, look for posted warning signs and become educated on the water conditions."

To learn more about the surf, wind and tide conditions, call the National Weather Service for information. The off base line is 211 and the on base line is 99-211.

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