Year of the Airman story: 932nd AES Airman earned heroism award for saving lives

  • Published
  • By Maj. Neil Samson
  • 932nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Working through challenging environments in the midst of high tempo environments is nothing new for Senior Airman Katlyn Ledbetter.  In fact, her resiliency and persistence to work through dangerous situations is what helped her rescue four victims of a boating incident. 

Of those four victims in the same incident, she saved one of those victims from drowning, twice.

On July 4, 2021, when on a boating trip at Lake of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, Ledbetter rescued four individuals who were struggling to stay afloat as their boat was sinking, three of the individuals were trying to keep their fourth group member afloat. 

Ledbetter, who was on a Jet Ski, dove in the water, swam to group, removed her life vest and applied it to the group member who was struggling to stay afloat. 

She then directed the other three individuals to swim to her Jet Ski while she safely escorted the fourth person, who was in critical condition. 

Once all four were secured to her Jet Ski, she initiated an initial trauma assessment on each victim.  However, during this assessment, the fourth victim was in an altered mental state, causing them to jump back into the water.  Ledbetter re-entered the water again and made a second rescue. 

Ledbetter ensured the fourth individual remained with her Jet Ski and continued to provide a triage assessment and high quality care until emergency crews could arrive.

She was later awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for heroism for her quick response, which would have otherwise resulted in loss of life.

Her rapid assessment of the situation and actions that day are attributed to her AF Reserve aeromedical evacuation and civilian firefighter training.

In the AF Reserve, Ledbetter is an aeromedical evacuation technician flight medic with the 932nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

“We provide in-flight medical care and transportation for patients requiring a higher echelon of care. On a daily basis we work to stay up to date on flight regulations, familiarization with our medical emergency equipment and aircraft, while also maintaining our medical certifications so that we are prepared to treat patients anywhere and at any time that we may be tasked to,” said Ledbetter. 

When she is not performing training or supporting military operations as an AE technician, she is a civilian firefighter in her full-time civilian career and a full-time undergraduate student.

“As a civilian, I am a firefighter for the city of Ferguson, Missouri, where I operate as a full-time firefighter as well as instructor,” she said. “I also work as a part-time emergency medical service for a private company at various events around the local area.  Since joining the (932nd) AE unit, I have applied and started to work towards my bachelor’s degree in nursing in hopes to one day commission as a flight nurse.” 

Ledbetter said she was inspired to join the AF Reserve due to an extensive history of service in the U.S. military as well as her passion to serve others.

“My grandfathers all served in the U.S. military,” she said.  “One as a pilot is the U.S. Army Air Corps, another as a member of the 1st Calvary in the U.S. Army, and another as a tanker in the U.S. Marine Corps.” 

“My father was a Marine Corps scout sniper and my brother is a Marine Corps combat engineer, who is now pursuing a career as a warrant officer and helicopter pilot in the Army National Guard.  I have learned from my family important life skills such as discipline, strong work ethics, and integrity,” Ledbetter added. 

In addition to her rich family history of military service, she felt a calling to military service.

“I have had a calling to serve in the military ever since a young age, however, I chose the college route after high school.  I have been in EMS for 10 years and have had a successful career, however the calling to serve in the military has always been there for me and I was very passionate about flying,” said Ledbetter.  “The Reserves offered me the opportunity to pursue both of my passions: being a firefighter in the civilian world while serving as a flight medic in the USAF.”

Her senior enlisted leadership commented on her intrinsic passion for the AE career field and her diverse array of military and civilian medical experience.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Senior Airman Ledbetter has the most diverse background as an aeromedical evacuation technician, firefighter, and embodies the whole Airmen concept,” said Chief Master Sgt. Christian Biancur, 932nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron senior enlisted leader. “The 932nd Airlift Wing, group and squadron immediately recognized her passion for the aeromedical evacuation mission.” 

“The AF Reserves will prosper from Katlyn’s dedication to her career, her steadfast commitment to furthering her education and her vast experience as a civilian first responder and aeromedical evacuation professional,” said Biancur.