Religious Affairs Airman Saves Life
by U.S. Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Alexander Frank
January 10, 2023
Staff Sgt. Kyle Mergeler, a religious affairs Airman with the 142nd Wing, has had a varied Air Force career in his ten years of service. He began his enlistment working in intelligence, and later spent years turning wrenches in maintenance.
Recently, Mergeler transitioned to a role in religious affairs, acting as a pillar of support for others. It’s a move that speaks to his passion for public service, community engagement, and giving back to others.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Mergeler, 142nd Wing religious affairs Airman, in the base chapel on December 15, 2022 at Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Oregon. Mergeler was recognized for providing life-saving care to an individual in crisis during his commute to drill on November 7, 2022. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander Frank.)
Mergeler first joined the 142nd Wing as a maintainer in 2015 after separating from active duty. While he enjoyed his work, Mergeler began looking for ways to give back. When an opportunity came up to work in religious affairs, Mergler jumped at the chance.
“I'm realizing more and more you get what you put in,” said Mergeler. “As much as I love maintenance, it was just an opportunity to work with people rather than wrenches.”
As a religious affairs Airman, Mergeler works to build a culture of spiritual care while ensuring the free exercise of religion for military members and their families. In addition to his military duties, Mergeler works to support healthcare workers in his civilian career.
“I'm a videographer for Providence Health Care System,” said Mergeler. “That includes making training videos as well as some audio-visual support for the surgical suite and whatever technical stuff the hospital might throw at us.”
Whether he's supporting Airmen through religious affairs on base or helping doctors and healthcare workers receive vital training in the community, it’s apparent that Mergeler has a genuine desire to help others. It’s this desire that would drive him to take action and save someone's life.
During the early hours of Sunday November 6, 2022 ... on his way to drill, Mergeler was flagged down by a concerned citizen on Powell boulevard. It was then that he noticed a man lying unconscious on the sidewalk.
“I made a U-turn on Powell and pulled up and jumped out of my car,” said Mergeler. “I called 911 and they directed me through chest compressions; I did chest compressions on this individual for probably 5 minutes before fire showed up.”
Before deciding to turn around Mergeler admits he had a fleeting moment of hesitation; a thought that he quickly dismissed.
“I just thought about if I don't stop, am I going to be thinking about this experience all day and wondering what happened?” said Mergeler. “I decided it was worth it to flip around”.
After providing life-saving care and meeting with first responders, Mergeler continued on his way to drill. Mergeler’s action wouldn’t go unnoticed by his leadership, or the wider military community. Staff Sgt. Mergeler was recognized by Oregon’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Michael Stencel, and coined by Oregon Air National Guard Commander, Brig. Gen. Donna Prigmore, for his selfless actions.
Maj. Robert Edwards, a chaplain with the 142nd Wing and Mergeler’s commanding officer, says his actions are just emblematic of who he is.
“It’s not surprising that Kyle jumped into action to help,” said Edwards. “He’s a good team player and very social, bringing a real energy, thoughtfulness, creativity, and strong work ethic to the table.”
“I thought a lot about the hospital mission,” said Mergeler. “And…being the hometown hero and members of the community, because these are our neighbors.”
In his 10 years of service, Staff Sgt. Mergeler has certainly left his mark. While not everyone gets the opportunity to save a life, Mergeler argues that anyone can make an impact, and that a strong community is one that helps one another.
“Part of me feels like anyone should do it, we should all jump in in that situation,” said Mergeler. “We're here to help them, and in turn, they're here to help us”.
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