Some people know what they want to do when they grow up, and they naturally seem to have a penchant for excellence. The Oustanding Airman of the Year award is only given to 12 candidates, who are selected from a pool of 36 nominees. Not only was Tech Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien surprised that he was receiving an award; he showed the world why he is a deserving hero. When en route to the 2019 OAY award ceremony, the airman jumped into action to save a choking child. Stepping up to save a life may have been coincidence or destiny, but Kenneth O’Brien is a heroic force for good.
Natural Born Hero
Kenneth was 12 years old when he realized he wanted a career in the armed services. As a youth, Kenneth often dreamed of jumping out of planes and helping people. When he sought out his recruiter, he immediately requested to focus on a career in pararescue. O’Brien has spent 12 years in service of his country, and he started boot camp training shortly after graduating high school. Over the years the Bunker Hill, Indiana native has taken on challenges, stepped up as a leader, and has acted selflessly.
Tech Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien is no ordinary serviceman. He had the honor of working security detail for President Trump when he made a historic trip to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-un. In 2018, when a Thai soccer team and their coach were trapped helplessly in a cave, O’Brien went the distance as an American to save their lives. Kenneth was the lead medic during the rescue and extraction for the soccer team and was the first person to serve the children as they clambered out of the water. Kenneth’s most recent feat of heroism was saving a one-year-old passenger on his flight from Okinawa, Japan to Dallas, Texas.
Happy To Help
As a soldier and hero, Kenneth’s goal was to excel, help, and be at the right place at the right time. After spending over a decade in the Air Force, Kenneth rose to the ranks to become a special tactics section chief for the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, located at Japan’s Kadena Air Base. Regarding his career achievements and nomination for the OAY awards, the humble airman had this to say. “If someone needs to go do something dangerous, I volunteer. If someone needs a leader, I volunteer.” Seeking out opportunities and more responsibility has helped Kenneth transform into the dependable hero and leader that he is today.
Public recognition and celebrity have never crossed O’Brien’s mind, as he lives to be of service to others and help when and where he can. When Kenneth was seated with family aboard his flight, he noticed a young child in trouble. A one-year-old child was choking, and O’Brien leaped into action to remove the obstruction and perform CPR. After successfully resuscitating the child, O’Brien kept a close watch to ensure the little one was okay. Modest as always, Kenneth commented on the event. “I’m thankful that the child is okay and that I was able to help the family when they needed support.”
Beyond The Call Of Duty
Kenneth was “…shocked and thought I would never win,” when he was honored with an award at the Air Force Association conference. Saving a child aboard his flight, and then returning to what he was doing prior, didn’t cause O’Brien to think twice about his heroic deed. Being at the right place at the right time is something this airman continually does well.
A Facebook post featured Tech Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien on the page AFSOC Commander and it received 15K likes, 1/1K comments, and 5.3K shares. The Internet was unanimous about how incredible O’Brien is and how he is a shining example of an Airman. Facebook user Chris Mcginty commented, “Thank you for exemplifying what the standard of being an Airmen truly should be.” Another winning comment came from Kat White, “Wow! A true Superman! Thank you for your service…”
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