FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - In the midst of smoke and blood, the special tactics officer's training kicked in, and he set to work.
This time he was not operating in the deserts of Afghanistan. He was administering lifesaving care in Fayetteville, N.C.
Maj. Francis Damon Friedman, director of operations at the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, N.C., was on his way to work the morning of Jan. 29 when he saw a Toyota Tundra veer off the road, hit an electrical pole at about 65 mph and launch into a tree-lined ditch.
Friedman immediately rushed to the accident site where he found one woman, the driver of the vehicle, trapped in the truck.
He said his first thought was "I need to gather a team to see if we can get to the victim."
Friedman said he felt a sense of urgency to help the woman because the engine block was smoking heavily and looked like it was on fire.
He corralled three onlookers to assist him in tearing tree limbs away from the entrance door only to find he could not pry it open. So, he smashed the truck bed cab window and climbed inside.
He administered first aid care to the victim, who was slipping in and out of consciousness and was in a state of shock, Friedman said.
When responders from the Spring Lake Fire Department arrived, they found Friedman talking to the woman and supporting her neck and spine.
Capt. Steven Barker of the Spring Lake Fire Department credited Friedman for applying the C-spine hold on the woman, which he said is critical to preventing paralysis in the case of an accident of this magnitude.
"The gentleman was asked if he wanted to come out (of the truck) which he denied," Barker said. "By doing this it spared us an extra person to assist in the extrication process."
The paramedics were not able to fit in the truck with Friedman and the victim, so Friedman reported vitals, gave the medics his initial assessment of her condition, assisted with the IV and applied her neck brace.
He stayed with the woman holding her up for approximately an hour until the Jaws of Life were used to cut open the door, giving the medics access to her.
Lt. Col. Spencer Cocanour, commander of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, called Friedman an outstanding representative of the special tactics community.
"Maj. Friedman was in the exact right place at the right time," Cocanour said. "I am glad to see he was able to take his warfighting training and apply it during peacetime."
Friedman said he was humbled by the attention garnered by his heroic act.
"I was doing exactly for that lady what any of my operators would do for me," Friedman said. "Any one of my guys would do that, and that's just our breed in special tactics. I am just honored it was my time to help."