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Service beyond the uniform

Emergency crews work the scene of an accident on U.S. 390 near Transmitter Road in Lynn Haven on Jan 15. (Courtesy photo Andrew Wardlow, News Herald)

Emergency crews work the scene of an accident on U.S. 390 near Transmitter Road in Lynn Haven on Jan 15. (Courtesy photo Andrew Wardlow, News Herald)

Technical Sgt. William Dryden Jr., 325th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department station captain/crew chief, stands in front of the Tyndall Fire Station 1 Jan. 20. Dryden helped four people get out of an overturned vehicle after a major collision on Jan. 15 in Panama City, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alex Echols/Released)

Technical Sgt. William Dryden Jr., 325th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department station captain/crew chief, stands in front of the Tyndall Fire Station 1 Jan. 20. Dryden helped four people get out of an overturned vehicle after a major collision on Jan. 15 in Panama City, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alex Echols/Released)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Airmen are vigil on and off duty, in and out of uniform. That means watching for danger and taking care of people no matter the situation.

Technical Sgt. William Dryden Jr., 325th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department station captain/crew chief, proved that when Airmen and the community come together they can do a lot to help others, even after a devastating car crash.

Dryden was driving home from the gym after working a night shift when he came across a vehicle collision at Transmitter Road and County Road 390 around 8:45 a.m. Jan. 15.

When he arrived at the scene, Dryden saw a red car with a crushed front end and airbags deployed and a black sports utility vehicle flipped into a ditch.

"I feel like it's my job, you know?" said Dryden. "When a type of situation that you train for comes, you have to take on that task and responsibility and just let the training take over."

Dryden's fire fighter training kicked in at this point. He blocked traffic from the scene with his personal vehicle and jumped out to assess the situation.

The SUV was taking on water from the flooded ditch, and its gas tank had ruptured from the crash. Four people were inside.

"There were people in the front yelling," said Dryden. "I could see one person upside-down, face down, not talking, not responsive and not asking for any help what so ever." 

He broke the driver's side window allowing the two front passengers to clamber out. Both people in the back seat were upside-down, unconscious and resting on their necks.

"My biggest concern was to try to get them out and open their airways up because they were lying on their neck and not responding," said Dryden.

With the help of two Bay County citizens, Dryden pried the window up, climbed into the vehicle, got those passengers out and ensured their airways were open. An off-duty nurse also arrived on the scene to provide care to the passengers.

"The biggest thing that helped me out was the community," said Dryden. "If I wouldn't have had them there it would've been much more difficult."

All of this happened in about five minutes. Once the Bay County Fire Department arrived, Dryden briefed them on the situation and let them take it over from there.

"I applaud his courage and quick-thinking, as well as the initiative to take action rather than remaining a bystander," said Col. Christopher Holmes, 325th Mission Support Group commander. "This speaks volumes about Dryden's quality of character along with his caring for others.  He certainly personifies our Air Force core value of 'Service Before Self.'"

All six occupants were taken to the hospital with two sustaining severe injuries.