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JBLE Airman helps save drowning girl

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Richard Penny, 633rd Air Base Wing Inspector General management internal control toolset administrator and special access program manager, Adam Bradshaw and Ashley Staley receive Citizen Lifesaving certificates at Fort Monroe, Virginia, June 7, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Richard Penny, 633rd Air Base Wing Inspector General management internal control toolset administrator and special access program manager, Adam Bradshaw and Ashley Staley receive Citizen Lifesaving certificates at Fort Monroe, Virginia, June 7, 2018. On May 13, 2018, Penny, Bradshaw and Staley risked their lives to save a nine-year-old girl from drowning near the rock banks of Fort Monroe Beach. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS) -- A child was drowning at Fort Monroe Beach, Virginia, May 13, 2018.

When medical services arrived, they found a young girl who had been rescued from the water and was safe in her mother’s arms. The nine year old had gone swimming, when the current took her into deeper waters where she could no longer stand and was getting closer to the rocks.

“My friend got up and said ‘that little girl is in the water,’” said Tech Sgt. Richard Penny, 633rd Air Base Wing Inspector General management internal control toolset administrator and special access program manager. “My back was towards the water so I couldn't see what was going on, but she took off sprinting so I just started sprinting with her.”

It was at that moment that Penny, along with friends Ashley Staley and Adam Bradshaw, sprang into action.

At first, Penny and his friends couldn’t locate the girl. He remembers getting to the top of the rocks and seeing her still conscious, floating in the water.

“Then we heard her mom come sprinting and shouting, ‘help my daughter, she can’t swim, and I can’t either,’” Penny said.

Penny and Staley started climbing down the sharp, slippery rocks until they reached what they thought was shallow water.

“We weren't expecting for the water to be so deep that close to the rocks, but it was over our heads,” Penny said.

He said, this was the first time he remembers being afraid for himself -- even after four deployments.

“I don’t know if I ever would have done that if I wasn’t in the military,” Penny said. “The way the Air Force molds you into being a leader, the mentality and mindset given in the military, helped me through that.”

Soon after, Bradshaw arrived after swimming around the rocks in search for the girl and helped bring her back to the edge of the rocks.

“At this point, the water was just beating us against the rocks,” Penny said. “The water was just crazy. It was really, really rough that day.”

After getting the little girl and Staley out of the water, Penny and Bradshaw were met by friends that had remained on shore to help them out of the water.

In the aftermath of the rescue, beach marker signs have been installed to help emergency responders locate incidents on the beach quicker. The brown signs with reflective numbers will assist 911 callers to accurately identify the area to responding units.

The Hampton, Virginia, Division of Fire and Rescue recognized Penny, Staley and Bradshaw with Citizen Lifesaving certificates June 7, 2018. They will receive medals at a later date.

“I never thought there would be a day that I would almost be giving up my life for someone,” Penny said. “But I don’t take it back, and I’m so thankful that on Mother’s Day, that mom got to take her little girl home.”