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Treacherous Trail: Reservist helps rescue hikers

1st Lt. Kirsten Kent, an Intelligence Officer with the 916th Operations Support Squadron, Kent, and her crew performed and incredible cliff side rescue.

1st Lt. Kirsten Kent and a group of friends were hiking in the mountains of New Mexico when they heard screams for help. Kent and her crew performed a cliff-side rescue of a couple injured by a falling tree. (Courtesy photo)

On the morning of October 6, 1st Lt. Kirsten Kent, an intelligence officer with the 916th Air Refueling Wing’s Operations Support Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, and a group of friends were hiking in the mountains of New Mexico when they heard screams for help.

The group began to investigate the source of the screams.

Eventually, they came across a child who explained he was camping with his family nearby and a tree had fallen on his parent’s tent.

Instinctively, Kent led the group over to the boy’s campsite to assess the situation and provide aid.

“We found the mother and father pinned under the fallen tree and immediately began to consider ways to help. I knew we needed to move the tree and that the individuals underneath would definitely need medical attention. The question was just how much,” said Kent.

After removing the tree with the help of the family’s oldest daughter, Kent inquired as to the condition of the injured. The couple showed no signs of external bleeding. However, the mother reported a hip injury and the father complained of severe lower back pain.

Kent sent a runner down the mountain to call for help. She remained at the campsite and began to comfort and aid the injured couple.

“My Self Aid Buddy Care training was helpful, but so was all the other training I’ve undergone,” she said. “Learning to keep a cool head under pressure, to assess the situation, make a decision and act was very helpful here.”

Because hazardous conditions were still present, Kent sent the couple’s children down the mountain to safety. When one of the daughters could not find her jacket, Kent gave hers to the youngster.

At the Citizen Airman’s direction, the remaining children packed up their gear and evacuated the mountain with Kent’s husband, Josh. Thanks to her training, she was able to determine the mother had gone into shock. Kent and her friend, Samantha, began to pile sleeping bags on the injured woman after she complained of chills.

Eventually, the runner returned after successfully reaching out to first responders, and the group started down the mountain to meet them. The couple’s injuries and falling sleet and hail made the descent a dangerous task; but eventually, they all made it safely to the bottom.

Search and rescue teams met the group a half-mile from the trailhead and emergency personnel were able to evacuate the injured couple to a nearby hospital.

“I was not surprised to hear about Lieutenant Kent’s selfless act and I am very proud to have her in my squadron,” said Lt. Col. Amanda Person, 916th OSS commander. “I look forward to her safe return and the opportunity to watch the Air Force and all of society reap the rewards of such an outstanding Airman.”

The family thanked Kent’s group for its help.
“This solidified my belief that what we do in the Air Force Reserve is important,” Kent said. “We are always on duty in our communities and beyond. We represent our branch in and out of uniform, and how we act and react is sometimes critically important.”

(Moore is assigned to the 916th ARW public affairs office.)