SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — What was supposed to be a routine family event during 1st Sgt. William P. Dowd’s son’s football practice turned into anything but when a car flipped and struck a light pole approximately 200 yards from where Dowd and his wife were standing at Kapolei Community Park, Oct. 6, 2022.
Dowd, the company 1st Sgt. for Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, had his back toward the accident when a friend exclaimed she witnessed a car crash in the distance.
Instinctively, Dowd ran toward the vehicle and muscle memory took over as he assessed the occupants using the medical training he’s received over his 12-year Army career.
“As I approached the car, my first thought was to see if anyone was still inside the vehicle and then determine the priority of patients,” said Dowd.
Upon arriving, all the occupants were sitting outside the car with one victim in distress.
“The most [severely injured] patient had about a six-inch laceration along the inside of their thigh and I knew that was where I was needed most. There were two guys applying direct pressure, but they couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
Dowd grabbed a nearby beach towel and tied it around the patient’s leg and instructed one of the good Samaritans to hold it in place while he searched for an object to cinch it down. Within seconds, Dowd returned with a screwdriver he found in the trunk of the car and used it to complete his improvised tourniquet.
“Once the tourniquet was applied I felt good; I felt we finally controlled the bleeding. The bleeding slowed at the site of the laceration and the minor cuts along his lower leg went from bleeding to oozing.”
When the police arrived on scene they looked to Dowd for an assessment of the patient. He looked up and requested a real tourniquet to replace the makeshift one he was holding in place.
Once again, years of medical training paid off and Dowd knew exactly how to use, and where to place the bright red tourniquet. The bloody towel he was holding was no longer needed.
When the EMTs arrived and assumed their role, they flashed a grin submitting they were impressed with Dowd’s work, and tossed him a real tourniquet to keep as a gesture of goodwill for his steadfast actions.
The tourniquet now sits in Dowd’s office as a tangible reminder of what happened that day. It tells the story that Dowd is the type of person who is going to respond when needed most. He’s going to run toward the crash.
As word got around Charlie Company that Dowd provided first aid to a car crash victim while at his son’s football practice, there was a collective agreement that the right person was there to help.
“Thank goodness 1st Sgt. Dowd was there,” said Capt. Tanner Trotter, commander, C Co., 2-27 IN. “His experience and training definitely paid off, he’s calm under pressure and knows exactly how to act in every situation. I can’t say I’m surprised he made an improvised tourniquet, that's just who he is.”
Medical proficiency is one of the six fundamentals the Bronco Brigade prioritizes for each Soldier, and moments like this reinforce the importance of how Army medical training can help save someone’s life when you least expect it.
If there was one thing that Dowd took away from this experience it wasn’t his ability to administer care or improvise, rather, it was the way everyone responded and tried to help.
“The Kapolei community really came together when they saw someone was hurt. People ran up and handed me gloves, they brought bottled water to clean the wounds, and offered to help move the casualty from the scene," said Dowd. "Equally impressive was the precision and professionalism of the first responders who took over the scene. The EMTs, the police, and the fire department were extremely talented in the control of the situation once on scene.”