HomeNewsArticle Display

DLI student epitomizes Wingman concept during medical emergency at NASA

Maj. Saidin, Egyptian Army Saidin showed what it means to be a wingman by leaving a NASA tour and staying by Montenegrin Maj. Krunoslav Skupnjak's side during his three-hour hospital stay.  (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

Maj. Saidin, Egyptian Army Saidin showed what it means to be a wingman by leaving a NASA tour and staying by Montenegrin Maj. Krunoslav Skupnjak's side during his three-hour hospital stay. (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

Maj. Saidin, Egyptian Army (left), stands next to his classmate and wingman, Maj. Skupnjak, from the Montenegro Army.  (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

Maj. Saidin, Egyptian Army (left), stands next to his classmate and wingman, Maj. Skupnjak, from the Montenegro Army. (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- The bond developed between two international students was forever sealed because of what happened during a Defense Language Institute-English Language Course Field Studies Program weekend trip to Houston.

Maj. Wael Mahmoud Thabit Saidin (Egyptian army) showed a fellow student, Maj. Krunoslav Skupnjak (Montenegro army), the true meaning of being a wingman during a tour stop at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

These officers had been classmates for three months, but neither could have predicted that this weekend trip would involve a medical emergency and a three-hour hospital stay for Skupnjak.

Well into a tour at NASA's space center, Dan Vega, Field Studies Program lead escort, was informed that Skupnjak had become seriously ill. Skupnjak was escorted to the center's infirmary where his vital signs were checked. He was monitored by the staff for 20 minutes.

Though his vital signs appeared normal, he was nervous and clammy.
Vega decided not to take any chances and asked the bus driver to transport the student to the nearest hospital.

NASA provided a wheelchair to transport him to the bus. While Skupnjak was wheeled to the bus, Saidin approached and insisted on pushing the wheelchair.

"I am in his class and we have been together for a long time," said Saidin after being told he didn't have to help. "It is my responsibility to take care of him. He is my friend."

From that moment, Saidin stayed by Skupnjak's side. He loaded his friend onto the bus and helped him off when they arrived at Houston's Christus St. John Hospital.

Saidin wheeled Skupnjak to the emergency room, provided vital information about his classmate to hospital staff and helped fill out medical forms. When Saidin was offered the opportunity to return to the tour group he insisted on staying with his classmate.

Even while everyone else went to eat, Saidin stayed behind ready to provide assistance. After three hours, Skupnjak's condition improved and he was released from the hospital.

When asked why he felt obligated to stay with Skupnjak in the hospital, Saidin said, "It was my responsibility because he is my classmate. We have been in class together since Oct. 24. I also believe he would have done the same for me.

"In a wartime condition, you will always try to look out for your friends or comrades," Saidin added. "Although we were on a weekend tour, it is better to sacrifice my fun for my friend and help him deal with an unfortunate situation."

Skupnjak was amazed that Saidin stayed with him during the entire ordeal.

"For the first time in my life - I was surprised," said Skupnjak. "He showed great friendship. Now we've developed a close relationship. Our friendship will continue to follow-on training and beyond."

For his sacrifice and for demonstrating the U.S. Air Force's wingman concept, Col. James Garrett, DLI-ELC commandant, presented Saidin with a commander's coin at the Nov. 30 DLI graduation.

"It was an honor receiving the coin from the commandant," Saidin said. "I really appreciated receiving the coin in front of my countrymen, other international students, graduates and the DLI staff. Hopefully it sends a message to my countrymen and others that we should always look out for each other."

Saidin and Skupnjak were scheduled to graduate at the end of December and will attend follow-on training at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The two officers from different nations have more in common now. They are classmates, wingmen and friends.