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News | Jan. 23, 2024

Environmentalist saves agency customer’s life

By Jake Joy DLA Disposition Services Public Affairs

It was about 2 p.m. on a regular Tuesday afternoon in November as Michael Lapine worked from his Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services property disposal office desk in Grafenwohr, Germany.  

The environmental protection specialist was on a virtual conference call with colleagues when Material Examiner and Identifier Clint Sweeney burst through the door with word that a property turn-in customer in the rolling stock area appeared to be having a seizure.

As they sprinted the roughly hundred meters uphill back to the yard, Sweeney said the customer – a German local national visiting DLA to drop off surplus equipment from the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels – had fallen very suddenly, hitting the concrete hard. 

Sweeney made a lifesaving call in fetching him. Before coming to DLA, Lapine served as a soldier, a Navy hospital corpsman, volunteer firefighter, and later as a DOD civilian firefighter/emergency medical technician for 12 years. As Sweeney explained Lapine’s working expertise to the customers in German, the former EMT’s instincts immediately kicked in as he went to work on reviving their colleague.

“He was literally grey, with blue lips and blue fingernail beds,” Lapine said. “The first thing I did was check his pulse and do the ‘look, listen, feel,’ to see if he had any breath sounds.” 

Lapine recognized the situation as full cardiac arrest. He estimated that he began performing chest compressions within about a minute of the customer falling, and without such rapid intervention, “there’s no doubt” the man would have died.

“You’ve got to go in and get to the heart,” Lapine said, of the 60 deep chest compressions he provided. He paused to reassess the pulse and tilted the man’s head to help open the airway before providing another 60 compressions. He finally felt a pulse and could hear faint breath sounds, so he began administering chest manipulation to elicit a response and attempt to help the victim regain some level of observable consciousness.

“His arms kind of moved, which, in my eyes, was a good sign,” Lapine said.

Soon, a base firefighter arrived. Then an equipment truck, followed by a helicopter and four more emergency response vehicles. By the time first responders had taken over and loaded the customer onto a helicopter for transport to a local civilian hospital, Lapine said the man was still unresponsive, but he still had a heart rate, was steadily breathing, and his skin color had improved dramatically from blue and gray to pink.

Lapine said he has provided first response care numerous times before. His training and expertise undoubtedly saved the customer’s life, but he credited his teammate Sweeney for quick thinking in a stressful situation.

“Clint coming down and not just sitting there and waiting for an ambulance to come, that was a huge ‘make it or break it’ thing when you get into an event like somebody’s heart stopping,” Lapine said.

During a livestreamed major sub-command all-hands event held Jan. 23 in Battle Creek, Michigan, DLA Disposition Services Director Mike Cannon congratulated Lapine and announced that he had been awarded the Superior Civilian Service medal, which recognizes federal civilian employees who distinguish themselves through acts of valor, including the demonstration of notable bravery in the event of a crisis. Lapine spent close to five years with the agency and recently transferred to fill another position in the federal government.