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'Outstanding' airman saves baby while traveling to receive award for other heroic acts

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 9/25/2019 Zachary Halaschak
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An airman traveling from Japan to the U.S. to receive a prestigious military honor racked up one more act of bravery while in transit.

Tech. Sgt. Ken O’Brien was on his way to Dallas from Okinawa when he saw a 1-year-old baby choking, jumped into action, and saved the child’s life.

O’Brien, an Indiana native, was flying to the states to receive one of only 12 Outstanding Airman of the Year awards. He was being given the honor after a valiant year in which he served on President Trump’s security detail during his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saved a civilian’s life by pulling them from a burning car in South Korea, and played an “instrumental role” in rescuing trapped children during the 2018 cave rescue mission in Thailand.

“If someone needs to go do something dangerous, I volunteer,” O’Brien said of the past year’s heroics. “If someone needs a leader, I volunteer. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and that's what helped me stand out because I sought out key positions or responsibilities.”

“I can’t decide if he’s Superman or Mayhem (the guy on the insurance commercials),” said Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, in a Facebook post.

Slife described how when O’Brien saw the infant stop breathing he immediately worked to save the baby’s life.

“Our man OB leaps into action, clears the breathing passage, resuscitates the kid, hands him back to the parents, and then goes on about his business,” Slife said.

O’Brien said when the award was announced in August, he wasn’t sure how long he would stay in the Air Force, but wanted to continue to help others in need.

“I want to keep doing this as long as I can or as long as my body can handle it,” O’Brien said. “Hopefully I can continue to do the big missions like this and continue to help people.”

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