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NEWS | Dec. 10, 2010

Reservist awarded the Airman's Medal for off-duty heroism

By Airman Alexis Siekert 502 Air Base Wing OL-B/PA

When a routine flight becomes unexpectedly turbulent most passengers will panic, thankfully those traveling on Continental Flight 1404 had a hero onboard.
With humility, Lt. Col. Richard Lowe, 340th Flying Training Group flight instructor,, accepted the Airman's Medal at a ceremony in the base theater today. On Dec. 20, 2008, Colonel Lowe helped to successfully evacuate the passengers and crew of Flight 1404.

The aircraft skidded off a runway while taking off from Denver International Airport. The plane burst into flames and crashed into a ditch. Colonel Lowe, a passenger on the flight, leapt into action and made several trips in and out of the wreckage to ensure everyone was safely out of the plane.

Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla, 10th Air Force commander, presented the award. The general told the audience that Colonel Lowe was an ordinary guy, doing an extraordinary deed. He went on to say that the men and women of the Reserves "don't just settle for just enough, they are the best of the best."

"I'm humbled and honored that my peers would nominate me for this award," said the colonel. He credits his military training to "stay calm and slow down to go fast" for helping him save his life as well as others onboard.

The colonel said he could feel the sand running out of the hour glass and the hair stand up on the back of his neck on his last trip into the aircraft. It was only a few seconds after he exited for the final time that there was an explosion.

For his heroic actions, Colonel Lowe earned the Airmen's Medal. The military decoration is awarded for "heroism not involving actual conflict with an armed enemy." It is the highest non-combat-related award in the Air Force.

Colonel Lowe also received a presidential citation from the Air Line Pilots Association for his actions on that day.