This hero airman saved a child's life on the way to pick up an award for doing a bunch of other heroic things

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Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O'Brien.

(US Air Force)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

A US airman recently saved a child's life on his flight back to the US, where he was to receive a prestigious award for being exceptional, the Air Force announced this month.


Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O'Brien, a special tactics section chief assigned to the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena Air Base in Japan, was named one of only a dozen "2019 Outstanding Airmen of the Year," the Air Force announced in August.

O'Brien served as a member of President Donald Trump's security detail for one of the summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and he rescued someone from a burning vehicle in Korea. He played an important role in rescuing a Thai soccer team from a cave, and, during the rescue operation, he also saved the life of a Thai Navy SEAL.

"If someone needs to go do something dangerous, I volunteer," O'Brien said of his rather eventful year. "If someone needs a leader, I volunteer. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and that's what helped me stand out because I sought out key positions or responsibilities."

Two weeks ago, he was on a flight back to the US to receive his award at the Air Force Association conference when a 1-year-old child lost consciousness due to an airway blockage. The child may have been unresponsive, but O'Brien was not.

"Our man OB leaps into action, clears the breathing passage, resuscitates the kid, hands him back to the parents, and then goes on about his business," Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, wrote in a Facebook post, Stars and Stripes first reported.

The Air Force said in a statement that the child regained consciousness after about a minute. O'Brien regularly checked in on the child throughout the remainder of the flight.

"I'm thankful that the child is OK and that I was able to help when the family needed support," O'Brien said, explaining that he just "happened to be in the right place at the right time."

"I can't decide if he's Superman or Mayhem (the guy on the insurance commercials)," Silfe said on Facebook. "I don't know whether I want to be right next to him in case some bad stuff goes down, or whether I want to be as far away from him as possible because bad stuff always seems to go down around him."

While O'Brien was named as an award recipient in August, his actions on his flight back to the US confirmed that he is deserving of it, his commander said.

"We are very proud of Tech. Sgt. O'Brien," Lt. Col. Charles Hodges, commander of the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, said in a statement. "He continues to step up when there is a need for leadership and action. This incident demonstrates without a doubt that O'Brien epitomizes the Air Force's core values and rightly deserves the honor and selection as one of the Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year."

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