MINOT AIR FORCE BASE - An airman from the 5th Security Forces Squadron at Minot Air Force Base recently received the Airman's Medal for the heroic and selfless act he performed back in the fall of 2008.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Haller, 5th Security Forces Squadron member and the recipient of the award, humbly accredits the medal largely to his military training and the sense of duty instilled in him by the Air Force core values, specifically service before self.
"I really don't think it was anything special," Haller said. "I did what I thought anybody would do. I hope that if I was the one slumped over (my steering wheel), someone would save me."
Submitted Photo • Staff Sgt. Joseph Haller, 5th Security Forces Squadron combat arms training and maintenance instructor, looks down the sight of his M-4 rifle at the shooting range at Minot Air Force Base Dec. 7, shown in this photo by Airman 1st Class Stephanie Ashley. Haller was recently awarded the Airman’s Medal for the heroic and selfless act he performed in the fall of 2008.
Back on Nov. 8, 2008, Haller and his wife were driving southbound on Antelope Valley Freeway on their way to visit his grandparents in Lancaster, Calif. En route, he and his wife noticed a northbound motor home cross the median of the divided highway and head into oncoming traffic.
Consequently, Haller's vehicle was forced off the road. However, instantaneously and without reservation, Haller swiftly turned his vehicle around and put pedal to the metal to catch up with the wayward motor home.
"I noticed the guy slumped over the steering wheel," Haller recollected. "And I noticed everyone else was parked about a mile behind the motor home - they were just following it, watching it happen. I had to do something."
When he was able to catch up with the motor home, he set his car's cruise control to 55 mph, matching the speed of the renegade motor home. Now alongside the motor home, he turned to his wife and signaled to her the next drastic step he planned on doing.
What happened next is something one would expect out of a movie or video game. With his wife in control of the vehicle, he jumped over two and a half feet of treacherous highway from his vehicle to the motor home.
"I managed to time it right where I was able to jump in," Haller said.
As the motor home flew down the highway, hitting oncoming traffic signs and lights, Haller was able to take control of the vehicle and bring it safely to a complete stop. If Haller had not done what he did, the motor home would most likely have hit one of the nearby houses alongside the highway.
Once the motor home was neutralized, however, Haller's courageous sense of duty showed no bounds. He then began to administer first aid while his wife dialed 9-1-1.
"I noticed he had one of those diabetic bracelets with him," Haller recalled. "My mom had diabetes so I was pretty well aware of it. I tested his blood and after I tested his blood I found out it was extremely low... so I gave him one of his glucose tablets and made him chew it up. That started bringing him back a little bit. That's when the EMT's and the firefighters started to arrive."
The responders on the scene were astonished with Haller's story.
"They told me that they would have just parked the fire truck in front of it!" Haller humorously recounts.
During the 10-minute ordeal, Haller acted upon what he felt was right and necessary - at great risk to himself. He attributes this sense of duty significantly to what the Air Force has imparted to him.
"My training just took over," he said. "I wasn't going to let someone else get hurt."
While deployed in Iraq, Haller received training on how to do in-stride vehicle recovery, which he said helped him do what he did. He also gave a lot of credit to the Air Force's superb job in training him and all airmen on how to perform Self-Aid Buddy Care.
But besides all the specified training, he believes that all airmen have an overarching duty to try their best to help someone in need, regardless of the situation.
"There are plenty of instances where I can relate it to Team Minot people doing the same thing, especially out on Highway 83 in the snow," Haller said, "Say that they are driving along and they see a vehicle rolled over in front of them. People are supposed to stop because of the state law of North Dakota, but I'm pretty sure that the core values for the people here, like service before self, are the main reason for their stopping."