WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
The 655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group squadron operations superintendent Senior Master Sgt. Casanova didn’t have much time to think before she selflessly leapt into action to save a retired war veteran from a potentially serious vehicle accident on January 13, 2017.
Casanova was stopped at an automotive service station when she spotted another vehicle rolling backward toward a curb while dragging an elderly man, who turned out to be retired Air Force Master Sgt. Raymond Nolte, underneath.
The elderly veteran had stopped at the station and was attempting to refuel his vehicle but neglected to place the vehicle in park. When the vehicle started rolling backward the vehicle door struck him and knocked him to the ground. His jacket became caught on the inside door handle and his entire body was being pushed backwards. The vehicle drug him approximately 60 feet before Casanova noticed and risked her personal safety to come to his aid.
“It took me a moment to even be sure I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing,” Casanova said. “I could just see the man's legs sticking out from under the open driver's side door while the car was rolling slowly backwards and I thought maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me. Once I realized that it was for real I also realized that it was a bad situation.”
She efficiently assessed the situation, quickly ran to the car, maneuvered over his body around the open door and pressed the brakes before the car crashed into a curb, which could have potentially crushed him. After she secured the vehicle, Casanova turned on the engine, put the car in drive and slowly inched forward to carefully dislodge the veteran.
“I was not concerned for my safety, only because it didn't occur to me that I should be,” she said. “I could just see that if the car didn’t stop soon it would reach the bottom of the parking lot where there was a concrete curb. If his body was still in the space below the open car door, if the car reached the curb, he would have been seriously injured because the door would have forced his body against that concrete with the weight/momentum of an entire car pushing on it. He could have been crushed. And if the car continued over the curb and down the hill it would have rolled into a fairly busy road, probably causing a serious accident. The only time I was concerned about anything it was that I wouldn't be able to get into the car to press the brake.”
Casanova is being hailed as a hero by her peers and leadership. Colonel Redden, 655th ISRG squadron commander, said he is extremely humbled by Casanova's courageous act by taking action to intervene and defuse a potentially life-threatening situation.
“Sergeant Casanova’s selfless action only solidifies her impeccable character, and truly demonstrates our core value ‘Service before self,” Redden said.
“I didn't really look at it as a heroic act,” Casanova said. “I can't imagine anyone not doing what I did if they'd been able to. The alternative would be standing there and watching a man get seriously injured or killed. I would have done that for anyone.”
The mascot for the 655th ISRG squadron Casanova belongs to is the Honey Badger, and their motto used to be, “Honey Badgers, Don’t Care.” In light of Sergeant Casanova’s selfless act of courage enabling Mr. Nolte to walk away from the incident with only minor injuries, Colonel Redden has unofficially changed the unit’s motto to “Honey Badgers, DO Care.”
The 655th Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group is dedicated to serving as the premier and most diverse ISR Group in the United States Air Force, delivering timely, reliable, accurate and actionable intelligence products enabling a decisive advantage over adversaries of the United States. The 655th consists of a headquarters and three tenant squadrons in Ohio, and 11 geographically separated units in California, Texas, Nebraska, Virginia, Florida and Maryland. For exciting and rewarding career opportunities with the 655th ISRG, please contact your local Air Force Reserve recruiter or call 937-257-8117.