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Caught in a whirlwind

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Devin Boyer
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs
Not many people understand what it is like to be caught in the middle of a tragic situation; however, Airman 1st Class Dillon M. Duermyer can relate.

At the age of 13, Duermyer was faced with an unfortunate scenario. During Pahuk Pride National Youth Leadership Training at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Iowa, he and his fellow Boy Scouts found themselves in the middle of a twister.

"The tornado sirens weren't very prevalent in the area, so we really needed to rely on our radio from the town to get the messages," said Duermyer. "By the time the message came through, we didn't have a lot of time to react."

After finding out the tornado was on course for their cabin, the scouts evacuated to another shelter. However, the tornado changed directions and what happened next was an unforeseen calamity.

"It picked up a truck and slammed it into the chimney," said Duermyer. "When this truck hit the bricks in the chimney, it crushed the chimney over ... the bricks came down and killed four kids."

Coincidentally, the scouts had a drill the day before, which taught them how to react to critical situations.

Duermyer said the training tested the scouts to see who would get up first and take the lead.

The skills learned that day did not go to waste. Duermyer and the surviving scouts put their training to the ultimate test when the twister hit.

"We were doing our best to pull people out and render care," he said.

By setting up triage and applying first aid, Duermyer and his peers helped save scouts' lives.

After the events of the tornado, the Boy Scouts of America's National Court of Honor awarded the surviving scouts and scout leaders lifesaving and meritorious action awards for their bravery and heroism. Duermyer received the Medal of Merit.

Although the devastation caused some scouts to leave the program, Duermyer's ambition compelled him to continue. A year later, he received the rank of Eagle Scout and dedicated 21 more months to the scouts.

Today, Duermyer is a medical records technician for the 17th Medical Support Squadron. During his technical training, he learned more advanced self aid and buddy care skills than what is taught in basic military training. He is also on the patient administration team for the 17th MDSS where his job is to admit patients so things run smoothly in an emergency situation.

"Although we don't see a lot of crazy emergencies here, if there is an emergency in San Angelo, we are still tasked to go out as an emergency team to help people," said Duermyer.

The Airman and Eagle Scout finds gratitude in the job the Air Force gave him.

"The National Guard responded to the tornado, and they had a medical staff very similar to ours," he mentioned. "When I found out that I was going to do something like that, I felt great. I feel like I'm working back to help out what somebody did for me."

According to Missouri Storm Aware's website, tornadoes cause an average of 70 fatalities and 1,500 injuries in the U.S. each year.

A tragic situation can happen at a moment's notice. By being emergency ready and taking action like Duermyer and his fellow scouts, lives can be saved.