JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
Alaska Air National Guard Master Sgt. Jason Hughes, a 212th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, received the Chief's Commendation Award from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Police and Fire Department July 20 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in recognition of a recent show of heroism.
Hughes' Anchorage-bound flight turned turbulent when an unruly passenger sitting just a few rows behind him threatened to take the plane down.
“The gentleman started having a panic attack,” said Hughes. “He said he had [post-traumatic stress disorder], and he was claustrophobic.”
Flight attendants initially tried to keep the passenger calm, allowing him to stand in the aisle to ease his claustrophobia. But his panic escalated into aggression, and the passenger started to scream and take off his clothes.
"It wasn't a question of whether or not I was going to react," said Hughes. "It was when it was appropriate to react."
Hughes jumped into action when the unruly passenger tried to break into the cockpit. With the help of other good Samaritans, Hughes and the flight crew subdued the subject and escorted him to the rear of the aircraft.
"Hughes took decisive action in placing himself in harm's way between the cockpit and the aggressive passenger," said Lt. Col. John Romspert, the 212th Rescue Squadron commander. "Quick action helped bring calm and assurance to passengers and the flight crew."
Hughes sat in the same row as the distressed passenger and used control tactics to minimize his movements to keep the others safe until the flight arrived at Ted Stevens International Airport.
The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Police and Fire Department thanked Hughes for his bravery.