459th Religious Affairs Airman saves life off duty

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado
  • 459 ARW/PA

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Tech Sgt. James Laska recently used his extensive medical background gained from both his military and civilian training to save a life while on his civilian job.

Tech Sgt. Laska is a Religious Affairs Airman with the 459th Air Refueling Wing Chaplain Corps and a Chief Rescue Technician with the U.S. Park Police Aviation Unit in Washington, D.C. His former military background in medicine is what prepared him for one of many days he helped save a life.

On June 4, 2020, while having lunch, Laska heard a call come over the radio from an officer requesting medical help for an individual who passed out while exercising at the Lincoln Memorial. Hearing the stress in the officer’s voice, Laska took the call.

“The officer seemed extremely stressed and I knew something was not right about the situation,” Laska said. “Me and my technician called for permission to fly, and we got out to the helicopter.”

Laska and his team landed at the Lincoln Memorial within minutes to find the patient had died and was being given CPR by nearby military and law enforcement service members.

“We arrived on scene and were briefed that the patient had died prior to us arriving, however, that does not mean she cannot be resuscitated. I took over doing CPR and my technician and I loaded her onto a stretcher and got her into the helicopter to head to George Washington University Hospital,” he said. “I also had one of the ANG med techs come to provide assistance.”

During the flight, Laska and his team of two continued to provide support hoping that the patient would be revived.

“As a medic, it is my job to always provide life-saving services until I turn over care,” Laska said. “Even though our patient was dead on arrival, I still made the decision to continue efforts to save her life. It was the right thing to do.”

By the time the helicopter arrived at the George Washington University Hospital, the patient was still dead. As Laska and his team rushed the stretcher to the emergency medical technicians on the ground, a miracle happened, the patient was revived.

“We got her to the emergency room and her pulse was back” Laska said. “I felt a sense of comfort knowing we did all we could and in the end she would be ok.”

Laska’s love for helping people extends far beyond his duties as a park police officer. He has volunteered to train more than 100 Airmen in the 459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron over the past few years in CPR and self-aid buddy care.

“I think it is important for every Airman to be able to operate correctly under stress,” he said. “Knowing the very basic steps of CPR and self-aid buddy care can save someone’s life.”

Laska not only is committed to helping civilians while on the job, he is also committed to supporting Airmen any time.

“The religious affairs team and the chaplains are here to support Airmen, especially during this time,” he said. “We want Airmen to know that no matter your religion, we are here to talk and serve you spiritually, mentally and socially.”

The wing chaplain office and religious affairs team can be reached by calling command post at 240-857-5556.