Humanitarian analyst saves another life

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • AFOSI Public Affairs

Being in the right place at the right time is generally considered fortuitous.

For Air Force Office of Special Investigations Intelligence Analyst Chris Montoya of the 2nd Field Investigations Region, Operating Location-B, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., it’s enabled him to save lives.

On Feb. 26, 2017, the retired active duty OSI Special Agent was on leave in Ecuador visiting family and celebrating his birthday when he heard screams coming from inside a house.

Montoya first thought the screams were a reaction to another earthquake. Equador's coastline had gone through a major quake a year earlier.

Instead, the screams were from the parents of a two-year old boy who was choking on some food.

By his own account, Montoya calmly entered the home and assessed the child's facial features.

"The child's eyes were almost closed, he was clearly not taking any air and his facial coloring was not normal and somewhat dark," he said. "All I could think about was getting the child to breathe."

The distraught mother told Montoya her child had eaten some potato chips.

"I opened and looked into the child's mouth and saw nothing," Montoya recalled. "But, I could clearly tell that something was obstructing his airway."

Montoya took control of the child from his parents to perform the Heimlich maneuver to open the boy's airway.

"I remembered telling myself to remain calm, clear the child's airway as I had been taught to do, and most importantly, not to show my fear to the parents and other family members present," Montoya said. "I knew as a parent and grandparent that keeping myself calm was just as important for them as it was for the child."

Shortly thereafter, the boy began to breathe again.

The child's parents and grandmother sent three emails to Montoya's supervisor detailing the analyst's actions and expressing their sincere appreciation for saving their son's/grandson's life.

"They also lamented their inability to act, due to the lack of training on how to perform the Heimlich," said Special Agent (Maj.) William Campbell, Director OSI, 2 FIR OL-B.

After the incident, Montoya demonstrated the maneuver for the parents and gave them online resources for future reference.

"As Chris' supervisor and friend, I'm proud of his actions that day, SA Campbell said. “But, no one is more appreciative than the child’s mother, who said of Chris, ‘He did not even think twice about helping my child, it was like a survival switch went off and he was just ready to assist somebody in need.’”

Ironically, this was the second time Montoya found himself in a life-saving situation in Ecuador.

On Nov. 16, 2008, then Special Agent Chris Montoya, was assigned to a one-deep position at OSI’s 2 FIR, OL-BE in Manta, Ecuador, which supported the 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron. His force protection umbrella covered U.S. military personnel in Manta, plus U.S. civilians and host nation Ecuadorians working at the Forward Operation Location.

At around 3 a.m. that morning he got a call from the Manta FOL Joint Operations Center informing him an American civilian contractor was having chest pains and fading in and out of consciousness outside a local night club.

“I didn’t have to respond to the call but did because it was the right thing to do,” Special Agent Montoya said.

He found Mr. James Armet unconscious and surrounded by 20 people, including two U.S. Navy members and American co-worker, Mr. David Buwi.

Buwi advised SA Montoya that Armet had diabetes and hadn’t eaten for hours.

While waiting 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, Armet had several violent convulsions. It appeared he may die.

That’s when Special Agent Montoya made a critical decision. With the help of two other Americans, he loaded the stricken civilian contractor into his car and headed for the hospital where he translated between Armet and Ecuadorian medical personnel.

“Mr. Armet said he needed his medicine, that his chest hurt and that a female in a yellow shirt put something in his drink,” SA Montoya said.

After Armet’s condition stabilized, Special Agent Montoya was informed if Armet was not brought in when he was, he would have likely choked to death on his own vomit.

Armet credited SA Montoya’s timely arrival and actions for saving his life.

“I owe him a lot. Without him, I would have come home in a body bag for sure,” he said.