Kunsan Airmen rescue Fairbanks locals from drowning

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Danielle Sukhlall
  • 80th Fighter Generation Squadron

Capt. Sung Woo Suh, 80th Fighter Generation Squadron Director of Operations and Master Sgt. Carleton Kennedy, 80th FGS production supervisor, both stationed at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, saved an infant, father and dog from drowning and hypothermia June 3, 2023 at Chena Lake Recreation Area, Alaska .

On Saturday, the 80th FGS weapons section was hosting an appreciation barbecue for their troops at Chena Lake Recreation Area in North Pole, Alaska. While the team was setting up for the barbecue, they heard a distant cry for help across the lake where a kayak had flipped over 200 meters from shore where a father, infant and dog had fallen into the cold water.

“Immediately upon hearing the cry for help, I took the first life jacket and swam towards them,” Suh said. “I calmed the dad, and helped the dog get off his shoulders so he could focus on the baby and prevent being crushed underwater.”

Showcasing wingmanship at its finest, Kennedy followed Suh to help rescue the family.

“As soon as Capt. Suh jumped into the water, I knew I needed to go with him,”, Kennedy explains. “I thought, ‘what if something happened to him, and I'm just sitting back there watching?’ So I jumped in without a second thought on pure instinct.”

As a team, the 80 FGS Master Sgt. Richard DeBeradinis, first sergeant, Senior Master Sgt. Richard Ashley, chief and Senior Master Sgt. Michael Giles, Weapons Section chief, were able to flip over the kayak and bring it back to shore. Once they arrived on shore, the 80th FGS chief and first sergeant were able to help Suh and Kennedy usher the father and child to their car to warm up, while they secured the kayak on the top of the car.

In situations like this where time is critical, the teamwork Suh and Kennedy have displayed was crucial. During this time of year, the average temperature of Chena lake can range from 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit according to the National Weather Service, making it an ideal temperature for hypothermia.

“MSgt Kennedy being there helped a lot. Without him, we probably would have been in the water for at least 10 more minutes,” Suh said. “One thing we worried about was the baby getting hypothermia, so teamwork was crucial.”

After only working together for four months, the heroism, teamwork and camaraderie displayed in this action got Suh and Kennedy a decoration and coining from Col. David Berkland, 354th Fighter Wing commander.