EOD Airman saves life while deployed to Papua New Guinea

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jim Araos
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Imagine sitting in a hotel lobby of a foreign country, when suddenly, a scream for help echoes from a dark parking lot outside. Without hesitation, you leap to your feet and depart the safety of the hotel in search for a person in need.

While recently deployed to Papua New Guinea for a Joint Prisoner of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command mission, Staff Sgt. Joseph Riemer, a 354th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, put his combat life-saver skills to the test when he encountered an injured local.

"At that moment, I didn't even think about if I should help this guy," Riemer said. "It was either I save his life or he bleeds out."

By following the sound of the screams, he came across a man hunched over and drenched in blood.

Although hotel security soon arrived on scene, they were reluctant to assist Riemer with treating the injured victim due to the large AIDS epidemic in Papua New Guinea. Instead, armed with shotguns, they created a perimeter to ensure the incident was not recurring.

Riemer laid the injured man on his back and began an assessment of his injuries. Due to the low lighting, Riemer resorted to using his cell phone as a makeshift flashlight.

"The man had been stabbed three times; once through the right tricep and twice in the inner left thigh," Riemer said.

After his assessment, Riemer applied direct pressure to the victim's leg in an attempt to stop the blood loss.

"I pressed my right knee on the pressure point in his groin to stop the bleeding," Riemer said. "At this point, I knew that this guy wasn't in real good shape, and I thought he was going to die."

While the bleeding continued, Riemer took the victim's shirt off and ripped it into two halves. He tied both halves as improvised bandages on both wounds while continuing to apply direct pressure. Riemer then instructed the hotel security to call for police and an ambulance.

"I asked one of the security guards for a tourniquet, but he didn't understand," Riemer said. "So I asked for his belt and applied it to the victim's inner left thigh."

Although the bleeding did not stop instantly, it drastically slowed in its pace. Riemer elevated the victim's leg higher and continued applying pressure on the pressure point.

"After that, I felt a lot more comfortable with what was going on," Riemer said. "I did everything I could with what I had."

Riemer requested towels to wipe off blood that may have been hiding additional wounds. He readjusted the victim's bandages on his arm and retightened them. After 20 minutes had passed, and with no ambulance in sight, Riemer instructed a manager to utilize a hotel van to transport the injured man to the hospital.

"I put him in the van in a position where his leg was elevated," Riemer said.

Before the hotel staff members transported the man, Riemer briefed the staff on the individual's name, injuries and what medical attention he received.

"Afterwards, I was covered in blood," Riemer said. "I walked to my hotel room and took a thorough shower."

On his way through the hotel lobby, several hotel staff thanked Reimer.

The following day, the hotel managers waited for Riemer in the lobby to inform him the good news of the victim's survival. The man was a member of the hotel staff who was arriving to work early for a midnight shift when he was mugged by three assailants.

"He was a hurt individual and it was kind of a human instinct to help him," Riemer said. "The guy ended up living, which was a really awesome feeling."

According to the hotel management’s report from the doctor, the victim would have died without Riemer's diligent life-saving actions.

"His reaction is a common response for someone of this high-caliber," said Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Sterner, the 354th CES EOD flight chief. "He thinks of others before himself. I'm very proud of Staff Sgt. Riemer."

Riemer has been nominated for the Noncommissioned Officers Association Vanguard Award. The NCOA Vanguard Award recognizes enlisted members who perform a heroic act, on or off duty, which result, in saving lives or preventing injury.