CAMP GEIGER, N.C. -- The morning of May 26 started like any other day for Sgt. Kirby D. Kuhn and Sgt. William P. Goodacre, Company F, Combat Training Battalion, School of Infantry – East combat instructors. They brushed their teeth. Put their uniforms on. Then, headed to work to train the Marines freshly graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., in advanced weapons techniques.
As their platoon finished its practical application exam of the M203 grenade launcher, Goodacre walked behind the formation. He heard a choking sound as one of his Marines fell to the deck aboard Camp Geiger, a satellite base of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C .
“As soon as that happened, I ran over there and told all the students to look forward and said for a fellow instructor to get the students out of there and around the corner from where we were and to call 911,” Goodacre said. “It looked like she was seizing so I tilted her onto her side and yelled for a corpsman.”
The young Marine stopped breathing.
Kuhn ran over to help Goodacre get the student Marine to breathe again.
“When I ran over, Goodacre had a female Marine on her side because that’s what you are suppose to do when the victim is seizing,” Kuhn said. “She was blue, very blue, and her lips were purple. We decided immediately to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.”
The combat instructors take CPR classes and teach their Marines basic life saving skills during the training cycle.
Staff Sgt. Juanita C. Towns, a fellow combat instructor, followed Kuhn to the fallen Marine and helped the other rescuers put her on her back. She began doing chest compressions while Kuhn began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by way of the tilt-head chin-lift method. Kuhn attempted to clear the Marine’s airway by closing her nostrils and breathing twice into her mouth every 30 compressions while Goodacre checked the Marine’s pulse.
“After a few tries, it sounded like she was snoring,” Kuhn said. “We tried to wake her up, but her eyes were still rolled into the back of her head. After about a minute of her doing the snoring thing, she started seizing again.”
The combat instructors could tell the Marine was not breathing again and continued CPR.
“When I tried to do the tilt-head chin-lift method, her jaw was locked, and I couldn’t get her mouth open,” Kuhn said.
“Goodacre massaged her jaw with his knuckles and managed to get her mouth open. Towns sacrificed her fingers to hold the Marine’s mouth open so I could perform the breathing resuscitation again.”
Kuhn and Staff Sgt. Michael A. Poklembo, the primary instructor during the M203 practical application, attempted to clear her airway, but were unable to.
“She stopped breathing again, so I started compressions again and Towns held her mouth open,” Goodacre said. “After about five compressions she started breathing again.”
Kuhn added after those compressions, her eyes were alert and looking around, but still unresponsive. The emergency medical team then arrived to get the Marine to the hospital.
“I thought that Marine was going to die. During the whole compressions and CPR, there was this somberness in the air,” Kuhn said. “But, she came back. She’s alive now because we did what we had to do. It’s our jobs as combat instructors to ensure our student’s welfare. To me, we were just doing our job.”
The combat instructors adapted to the situation and overcame the obstacles preventing their Marine from breathing and saved her life.
“My first thought that morning was ‘Today is going to be a good day,’” said Kuhn.
For their actions, Kuhn and Goodacre received Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during a ceremony in front of their students, June 17.