VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
As space experts and representatives from around the globe met to discuss present and future space capabilities during the 2019 Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., one of its participants was focused on something very different. Lt. Col. Olivier Fleury, the French Joint Staff Liaison Officer for Space at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was focused on staying calm as he was trying to save a life.
While Fleury has been an officer in the French Air Force for nearly 22 years, the past 10 years he has worked with satellite procurement, space surveillance and the Joint Force Space Component Command. With lots of knowledge to gain, Fleury attended this year’s symposium expecting to return with insight into the strategic future of space; but to his surprise, the most impactful takeaway would occur during a routine walk between symposium events.
“The French Joint Space Command commander Brig. Gen. Michel Friedling and I were walking in front of the Broadmoor hotel to get to a conference,” recalled Fleury. “A symposium participant, who seemed in a hurry, overtook us on the left and violently struck a pillar beside us and fell backward onto the ground.”
The shock to the victim’s body from the impact, with not only the pillar but also the ground, worsened his state.
“We immediately dropped our things to go comfort him. He was bleeding a lot from a two-inch cut on his head and was shaken by convulsions. During the first moments we tried to handle him, releasing his tie and belt and shouting for people to call a doctor, and when the convulsions ceased he seemed to have stopped breathing,” said Fleury. “I tried to get his pulse on his neck but was unable to find it, and I decided to begin heart compressions. Then, General Friedling took over with a few powerful compressions and mouth to mouth breathing. At that given time, the man suddenly resumed breathing and relaxed.”
Unable to tell if he could hear them, Fleury and Friedling continued to speak to the unconscious man, reassuring him that rescuers were on the way. Moments later, emergency responders arrived and took over the scene.
According to Fleury, he later learned that the man walked away with just a few stitches on his head.
Still recovering from the intensity of the incident, Fleury reflected on the Air Force readiness training that helped him and Friedling respond in that moment.
“It’s obvious that I was able to react only because I was prepared. We learn such rescue practice since our very first months in the Air Force,” Fleury said. “It is simply great to have been able to act, because you never know until you are really facing such an event. I would appreciate people to do the same for me.”
According to Fleury, although he did takeaway some key information from his experience at the symposium, including the importance of working as a team to ensure unrestricted access to space and the need to raise a new generation of highly professional space specialists, his most memorable experience happened during what should have been a routine, uneventful walk. He was immediately reminded of the importance of his Air Force readiness training.
“You always have to be prepared, to be ready for the day you are called. That’s the basis of our job, our strength,” Fleury said.