Aircrew flight equipment NCO earns medal for accident response

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Kurpaski, right, receives an Air Force Commendation Medal from Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould in a presentation Feb. 1, 2012. Kurpaski, the NCO in charge of aircrew flight equipment for the 306th Operations Support Squadron, received the medal for taking charge of an accident scene and treating one person who was wounded. Kurpaski is a native of Santa Monica, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Kurpaski, right, receives an Air Force Commendation Medal from Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould in a presentation Feb. 1, 2012. Kurpaski, the NCO in charge of aircrew flight equipment for the 306th Operations Support Squadron, received the medal for taking charge of an accident scene and treating one person who was wounded. Kurpaski is a native of Santa Monica, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The NCO in charge of aircrew flight equipment for the 306th Operations Support Squadron received an Air Force Commendation medal from Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould here Feb. 1.

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Kurpaski received the medal for his response to a single-car accident in November 2011 in which one person was injured.

"It was a Sunday. I was on my way home, driving down Briargate Parkway," Kurpaski recalled.

As he drove eastbound toward Union Boulevard, he saw a driver appear to lose control of her vehicle, which went airborne, rolled and came to rest on its passenger side.

"I put my car into park, ran up to her and started providing medical attention," said Kurpaski, who is the primary self-aid and buddy care instructor for the 306th Operations Group. "She (the driver) was bleeding from her head, so I started treating her for shock."

The NCO left the driver momentarily in the care of another bystander so he could get a first aid kit and blanket from his vehicle. He returned and stabilized her head, neck and back until paramedics arrived on the scene.

Kurpaski said that although this was the second accident to which he'd responded, he still felt shaken.

"I think I was in shock, too, but ... all the training just kicked in," he said.

Kurpaski asked his commander, Lt. Col. Douglas Downey, for time off the following morning.

"He was asking to go to the hospital and visit the victim, to check up on her," Downey said. "It did not surprise me at all. For one, Matt's our SABC subject matter expert ... and he's just the kind of guy who would put someone else before himself."

Kurpaski, a native of Santa Monica, Calif., who served as an SABC instructor for three years at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., before moving here, said he did not expect to receive a medal from the Academy superintendent.

"I felt like someone would have to administer SABC on me in a minute," he joked. "I was at a loss for words. It was a very pleasant surprise."

And, he said, he now has another prime example of why SABC is important, not just in deployed environments but also closer to home.