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NEWS | June 5, 2023

Defenders recognized for helping rescue woman attacked by yellow jackets

By Vanessa R. Adame 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

Four Security Forces members were recognized at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland recently for helping rescue a woman swarmed by yellow jackets near JBSA-Chapman Annex in May. First responders credit the Airmen for saving the woman’s life.

Col. Lauren Courchaine, 37th Training Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Michael Morgan, 37th TRW Command Chief, recognized the Security Forces instructors in a visit to the squadron in front of dozens of technical training students. The leaders thanked Tech. Sgt. Shanae Zimmerman, Staff Sgt. Markale Lovelace, Staff Sgt. Kimberly Carrillo and Staff Sgt. Trevis Merrit, from the 343rd Training Squadron, for their quick action in helping the woman in distress.

Security forces officials said the woman, who is a contractor, had been working groundskeeping at Chapman Annex when she inadvertently disrupted the yellow jacket nest. The wasps immediately attacked.

“When I saw her rolling and screaming, I knew I had to do something,” Lovelace said.

Lovelace flagged down Zimmerman and Carillo, who were nearby conducting entry control duties. Together with Merrit, the team sprinted into action and ran to the woman who Carillo described as covered in thousands of wasps. The team used what they had to fight them off.

“Sgt. Zimmerman took her paper and started hitting the wasps,” Carillo said. “I took off my jacket and swatted at them.”

The instructors applied first aid until emergency services arrived and carried the woman to safety.

Carillo fought back tears as she recalled the incident.

“She was older, so I think that's really where it hit home for me,” Carillo said. “It could have been my mom, it could have been anybody's mom, so it was very sad to see.”

The woman was taken to the hospital for further evaluation. The instructors were also stung numerous times in the incident, though not seriously hurt.

Reflecting on their actions, Courchaine said the four instructors exemplified “what the Air Force’s core values truly mean.”

Carillo said she hopes fellow Defenders are encouraged to do the right thing when they are in a similar situation.

“I hope that they see that what we do is real. A lot of them take our training and sometimes they say, ‘We don't really do anything.’ We do something. This is what we do,” Carillo said. “There are certain days where you'll stand at the gate for hours, but then there's that one time where you need to react and that's really what we're trying to teach them: to have the courage to step up and you know, save a life, not stand by and be a bystander because that's not what you were taught. We are teaching the ones that are going to take our place someday to be strong and good individuals -- good Samaritans.”