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Two Wright-Patt AFB airmen respond to distressed teen on overpass

South Maple Drive overpass in Fairborn, Ohio. (Google Maps/Released)

This article was originally published by the U.S. Air Force. 

On Nov. 18, Tech. Sgt. Anthony Staton was headed to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to begin his workday at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. Little did he know the actions he took before reaching the base’s gate would mean he potentially saved someone’s life. Little did he know a wingman would soon come along to assist.

Staton was driving on a South Maple Drive overpass in Fairborn when he saw a figure hanging onto a light pole outside the railing. At first, he thought it was a child, but then realized the individual was a young man peering down over the railing and looking at the railroad tracks below.

The Airman pulled over his car in one of the lanes, slowly walked to the distressed teen and began a conversation. The teen spoke softly, was hesitant and seemed to have a lot on his mind, Staton said.

“I stopped because of his body language – he looked sad. He didn’t look like he was in the best place,” he said. “You can tell when your friends are down; you notice body language, especially with everything going on this year. You want everybody to be OK. I was worried for him.

“I asked him to come over to me and he eventually did. I put myself between the railing and him and kept a hand on his shoulder while I called the police. That’s when Senior Master Sgt. (David) Briden came along.”

Briden, expeditionary operations manager for the Air Force Installation Contracting Center, also was driving to work when he saw Staton’s uniform, parked his pickup behind the Airman’s car and turned on his hazard lights.

“When he pulled up, I needed another person because I was afraid (the teen) would go back on his decision while I was on the phone,” Staton said. “Sgt. Briden also talked to him and knew to put our bodies between the railing and him and make sure he couldn’t choose another way. (Briden) was very calm himself. He’s a senior master sergeant, so he has probably had to deal with some situations of calming people down.”

The truck’s tailgate served as a convenient seat for the teen after the Airmen escorted him to safety and while a 911 dispatcher spoke with him. Soon several Fairborn Police Department units arrived and took charge, eventually taking the individual to medical care and discussing available resources with him.

“We certainly appreciate them stopping and helping that young man in crisis and we are thankful they were able to assist us,” said Fairborn Police Department Sgt. Ben Roman. “We value Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a member of our community. They are always willing to assist us.

“We appreciate them remaining observant of their surroundings and recognizing someone in need of help and making this a positive outcome.”

Staton said the Air Force suicide awareness and prevention training was a factor in how the incident was resolved. As a supervisor, he’s had to worry about his troops once or twice and head over to their home, he said, but this was a bit different.

“I’m glad I was there at the right time. I feel like I didn’t do anything that anyone else could have done. I’m thankful it ended the way it did,” he said.

He plans to reach out to the Fairborn Police Department for a wellness check on the teen.

“What stood out to me was the cool-headedness of the technical sergeant,” Briden said. “He did remarkably well, kept his composure and was talking to authorities until they arrived and helped de-escalate the situation. He definitely didn’t have to jump out or do anything like that. He could have just driven by like others had, but Tech. Sgt. Staton decided he was going to get out there and take care of this.”

Col. Maurizio Calabrese, NASIC commander, commended the two Airmen.

“These are caring and quick-thinking Airmen who literally didn’t think twice about who they protect and defend on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s really humbling, and I’m proud to serve with such selfless NCOs.”