HARTFORD, Conn. - The USO lounge, a popular hangout for traveling service members, can be found at major airports throughout the country. The lounges may be the most recognizable form of support the USO provides, but it is just one of many ways that the organization supports and contributes to the lives of service members.
On Nov. 20, 2017, the Connecticut USO honored Staff Sgt. Jazzreal “Jazz” Richardson, Flight Engineer assigned to the 103rd Airlift Wing, with the USO Military Leadership Award.
The award recognizes the commitment, exceptional service and achievements of individuals who have shown extraordinary dedication to their country.
Richardson, an Airman who has shown extraordinary commitment to his duties in the Air National Guard, is not the type of person who likes to brag about himself.
“I’m a quiet guy,” Richardson said. “I come to work and do my job. I don’t look for recognition.”
Richardson may not like to exalt himself, however, people who whom he has served have, in one way or another, expressed that he exemplifies the Air Force core values: integrity first, service be-fore self, and excellence in all we do. His actions while deployed in 2017 lend credence to those sentiments.
On March 21, 2017, upon arriving in Northern Iraq, Richardson and his team were suddenly redirected to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The crew was not sure of all the details surrounding the reason for the change in direction, but they knew it involved a medical emergency. With limited knowledge of the situation, Richardson also knew that he would need to think fast in order to reconfigure the aircraft in a way that would be conducive to the medical patient’s survival.
“We didn’t have any idea of the status of the patient,” said Richardson. “Not knowing that, trying to configure the aircraft always requires quick thinking. You can’t just sit there and think, because you have to get the patient off the ground and into the nearest medical facility.”
When Richardson and his team arrived in Qatar, they learned that a female patient was suffering from extreme internal bleeding. She desperately needed to be flown to a medical facility for care; her life depended on it.
“The patient was losing a lot of blood due to a pregnancy issue,” said Richardson. “She needed to get to a critical care unit within 12 to 18 hours or she would die.”
Shortly after takeoff, a malfunction occurred on the aircraft near the patient. After configuring the aircraft, Richardson needed to fix the malfunction immediately for the comfort and survivability of the patient.
“We had the patient near the HVAC and the system malfunctioned,” Richardson said. “The temperature went full-hot, [blowing] burning air on the patient. I had to adjust the system. The loadmaster also opened the cargo door to get cool air to come into the cab-in to make the patient comfortable.”
In-flight emergencies are rare on commercial aircraft; commercial airline employees don’t typically have to make adjustments to aircraft components during a flight as a passenger’s life hangs in the balance. However, according to Richardson, situations such as these are a normal part of his job.
“That’s the job of a flight engineer,” he said. “That’s what we do daily, is to be able to think 10 steps ahead. You always have to be ahead of the aircraft, because when a malfunction or something detrimental comes, it comes in twos and threes. We train for situations like this day in and day out.”
The work of the USO is an act of gratitude to the men and women who serve in the U.S. military.
The USO Military Leadership Award is the organization’s way of saying thank you to service members like Richardson, who go above and beyond. Still, when asked how he felt on the day that he received the award, Richardson responded simply, and humbly.
“It’s an honor. I loved it. I don’t look for recognition, but it felt good.”