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 News Article

Face of Defense: Airmen Save Drowning Man

By Airman 1st Class Mariah Tolbert
4th Fighter Wing

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C., June 15, 2012 – "Help!" someone faintly calls out.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Airmen 1st Class Alexis LoBasso, Ashley Irelan and Dylan Seng saved the life of a 49-year-old man while spending the day at Atlantic Beach, N.C., June 2, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Nieves Camacho

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

You look out to the ocean and see a man's arms flailing about, half a mile into the surf, struggling to stay afloat as waves crash down on him. What would you do, knowing lifeguards are not close enough to save him?

Three 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen assigned here found themselves in this situation while spending the day at Atlantic Beach, N.C., and on June 2 saved the life of a 49-year-old man.

Airmen 1st Class Dylan Seng, Ashley Irelan and Alexis LoBasso went to the beach to relax, soak up some sun and hit the waves. However, they were thrown into a life-or-death situation.

"LoBasso, Irelan and myself decided to go into the ocean," said Seng, a native of Palmyra, Pa. "While we were swimming, LoBasso and I heard a man weep for help. We thought it was a joke at first but we heard him for a second time, so LoBasso swam straight to the man and asked if he was okay. The man immediately replied, 'No.'"

As LoBasso reached the man, named Michael, Seng and Irelan followed. After realizing Michael had been struggling and could no longer keep his head above water, the three airmen assisted him to shore. Once there, lifeguards took control and checked everyone to ensure no one inhaled any water.

When asked why they’d risked their lives to save Michael, all responded similarly.

"I helped Michael out of pure instinct," said LoBasso, a native of Yonkers, N.Y. "We were all being good wingmen to Michael by coming to his rescue, and to each other for playing an important role to help him swim back to shore. The situation also embodies the Air Force core values because we used service before self by ensuring the safety of others before ourselves and doing our best to make sure no one was hurt, representing excellence in all we do."

That deed did not go unrecognized by others, including Thomas Daly, the captain of Atlantic Beach Fire Department Guard Unit 41.

"These three put the life of another above their own," Daly said. "Their quick actions, working together as a team, and sound resolve, should be a reflection of great pride to their supervisor, the Air Force and our country. It was an absolute pleasure working with them."

Irelan, a native of Toccoa, Ga., said he’ll always remember what Michael said when he thanked the trio: "You didn't just save my life; you gave my boy more time with his father."


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