Airmen aid stranded citizen in snowstorm

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Daniel Brosam
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
About 90 miles east of Great Falls, Montana, Carrie Mantooth was driving home Monday, about 5 miles southeast of Denton when she got her car stuck in heavy snow. The temperatures for that day were averaging below zero degrees.

Mantooth was not feeling well that day and was ready to call it a day in the comfort of her warm house.

“I had a doctor’s appointment early Monday afternoon and tested positive for Influenza A,” Mantooth said. “By the time I finished my appointment, picked up a prescription and was finally able to head home, it was mid-afternoon.

“I was exhausted and feverish and wanted nothing more than to get home and crawl into bed,” she continued.

She didn’t think her day could get any worse until she turned onto a road in her usual route and got her car stuck in thick snow.

“My spirit was crushed at this moment,” Mantooth said. “I hadn’t thought the day could get much worse, but I was proven wrong.

“I muttered a prayer, “God help me!”, put on my snow boots and parka, and grabbed the shovel,” she continued.

Mantooth began shoveling but wasn’t making much progress as her vehicle was high-centered in the snow, meaning the tires had no traction to get the car moving.

Fortunately for her, members of the 40th Helicopter Squadron, a tenant unit assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base, were performing exercise maneuvers at the local launch facility with Airmen from the 341st Security Support Squadron Tactical Response Force.

“We were circling around and the pilots, Majs. [Cas] Smith and [Robert] Arcand saw a vehicle in the snow,” said Senior Airman Joshua True, 341st SSPTS TRF assaulter. “We were wondering what it was doing there at first because we have to make sure [it was] not hostile.”

The crew circled around a few additional times and used an onboard camera to verify what they were seeing was true: Mantooth stuck in the frigid snow.

“The pilots began discussing what we wanted to do and it was a no-brainer,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Corpus-Munoz, 341st SSPTS TRF sharpshooter. “We [had] to go down there.”

Little did Mantooth know, the crew was planning their approach to land in an authorized landing area to help her out of the snow.

“When I began shoveling, I saw that it was circling and honestly felt irritated that the crew was witnessing my misery,” Mantooth said. “When I stopped and turned, I was shocked to see that they were actually landing in the field next to the road.

“Seeing the helicopter land with snow flying everywhere was an amazing sight, and the three Airmen jogging up to help me truly was an answer to that muttered prayer,” she continued.

The Airmen introduced themselves and assured Mantooth they were there to help her get back on her way home.

“She was alone so it was pretty clear it would have been tough for her to get out on her own,” said Airman 1st Class Ethan Husak, 40th HS flight engineer.

The three Airmen took turns shoveling the snow under and around the vehicle and pushing it out of the snow. After multiple attempts, the vehicle was finally free but moved up a little and got stuck again.

The Airmen continued the challenge and eventually had enough snow removed from the path. With enough momentum, they pushed the vehicle out and Mantooth was in the clear.

“They were polite, kind and efficient and are fine representatives of the U.S. Air Force and Malmstrom Air Force Base,” Mantooth said. “Your Airmen coming to my rescue is more proof of what we already know to be true: Malmstrom personnel are good neighbors, too.”

“Your Airmen were truly angels from the sky and turned a horrible day into a blessing that I will always remember,” she continued.

The Airmen knew that they needed to do the right thing to help Mantooth and a decision was swiftly made.

Not offering assistance to a member of the community in need was out of the question.

“Monday was very cold and we were well aware how cold it was outside so whenever we saw her stuck, we weren’t just going to leave her sitting out in the cold,” Husak said. “That could become life threatening before too long.”

When asked, True said making the choice to help was about doing what was right in a time of need.

“I feel like all of us together, and her, it wasn’t strangers helping strangers,” True said. “At that moment we were just people, and we needed to help each other out in that situation.”

Corpus-Munoz reiterated that the mission of the Air Force was the priority, but when someone is in need, a judgement call can be made.

“Of course the nuclear mission is our mission but if we are able to, we are always going to help someone else out while we’re doing our flights,” Corpus-Munoz said. “For us it’s not a really big deal… we just know it’s the right thing to do.

“It’s what we would hope someone else would do for us too,” he continued. “It’s just something we do… helping others.”