By Capt. Kevin Sandell, 10th Mountain DivisionMarch 7, 2013
FORT DRUM, New York -- Quick thinking and professional training by a 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Soldier is being credited with helping to save the life of a Watertown restaurant patron Feb. 28.
Capt. J.B. Branson, an assistant operations officer with 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, was eating lunch with a friend at the Crystal Restaurant in downtown Watertown, N.Y., when he noticed a disturbance at the table behind him. An older man eating lunch with his daughter appeared to be choking.
"By the time I got to the table, he was slumped over unconscious," Branson said. "I administered the Heimlich maneuver and got his airway open a little."
Although the maneuver dislodged the food, the man stopped breathing and had no pulse. Branson said his previous training took over, and he automatically started to assist. He and another patron immediately began performing CPR on the victim. Branson's insistence on staying calm throughout the incident helped settle the nerves of everyone at the restaurant.
"By remaining calm, I kept (the other patron performing CPR) calm," Branson said. "We were able to work together to determine he had no pulse, and then she administered chest compressions correctly."
Although the man regained a pulse and started breathing after about 90 seconds of CPR, Branson initially believed the man would die.
"I was very concerned that CPR was not working and he would die," Branson said. "It was a huge relief when he took that first breath."
Soon thereafter, Watertown first responders arrived on the scene and transported the man to a local hospital. Later that afternoon, the man's daughter called Branson to relay some good news: the man had survived and was doing well.
"When his daughter called and told me he was OK, it felt great to know that I helped her to get to have her father longer. She thanked me and I was grateful that God had put me there to help," Branson said.
Fortunately for Branson, he was in the right place at the right time, just as he had been at other accident scenes in fact. Branson said he has administered the Heimlich to two other people, but the CPR incident was his first.
Additionally, Branson was a certified instructor in CPR for the Professional Rescuer by the American Red Cross. He said he has trained nearly 100 people in CPR, many of whom were first responders.
He also had previously served as a platoon leader with 911th Engineer Company (Technical Rescue), based at Fort Belvoir, Va., an active-duty combat engineer company that specializes in urban search and rescue. It was there that he earned the CPR certification and gained real-world experience in responding to emergencies.
"I feel proud of my service with (the 911th)," Branson said. "They stand at the front line of first responders on call to protect the interests of the federal government and its workers in Washington, D.C."
Most Soldiers are trained in the Army's Combat Life Saver program, which teaches them how to stop bleeding, open an airway and, in some cases, administer an IV. The program ensures that Soldiers are prepared for injuries and emergencies that may occur on a deployment or in a garrison environment.
For Branson, the opportunity to save others as a direct result of his training helped another family to see their loved one, and he encourages others to also seek the proper training.
"As Soldiers, we never know when we will be in a position to help another person, or even stop someone from hurting others," he said. "We all can make a difference by being ready when we are needed. I am proud to know that I was part of something that means a whole family gets another day with their loved one."