An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsroomNewsArticle Display

Member of Team Pete rescues neighbor

Gary Roberts, recreational aid with Outdoor Recreation at Peterson Air Force Base, rushed to the aid of his neighbor, pulling him from a smoke-filled house. Roberts administered CPR until first responders arrived. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)

Gary Roberts, recreational aid with Outdoor Recreation at Peterson Air Force Base, rushed to the aid of his neighbor, pulling him from a smoke-filled house. Roberts administered CPR until first responders arrived. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- What began as a peaceful day of listening to the radio and painting the deck in his back yard quickly became a serious situation when Gary Roberts, recreational aid with Outdoor Recreation at Peterson Air Force Base, heard cries for help.

May 23, 2016, is a day Roberts will not soon forget.

“I heard my wife yelling that Theo needs help,” Robertson said. Theo (pronounced Tay-o), is his disabled next door neighbor Theodore Griffin. His wife was responding to Griffin’s wife who had run from her home shouting that her husband was in need of assistance.

Roberts saw smoke coming from his neighbor’s doorway and knew he had to take action.

“I dropped everything and told my wife to call 911 to get some help out here, a house is on fire,” he said.

Roberts rushed next door and found Griffin’s wife in the garage, who said her husband was injured. Knowing Griffin’s disabled condition, Roberts looked into the home to see how he could help.

“There were no lights,” he said. “I couldn’t see anything and I didn’t know the house. I could only see smoke and I didn’t want to go into the dark so I ran back to my house to get a flashlight.”

When Roberts returned, he saw black smoke rolling across the ceiling inside the house, where the neighbor’s wife apparently dragged her unconscious husband to the top of the stairway leading down to the garage. Roberts thought he could lay Griffin over his shoulders and carry him out, but Griffin was unable to assist in his own rescue and was too heavy.

Switching tactics, Roberts locked his arms under Griffin’s armpits and moved him outside, where he started assessing his neighbor’s injuries.

“I started checking his airway and it was completely black, like it had been burned,” Roberts said. He cleared Griffin’s airway and heard a slight gurgle, but could not see his chest rise and fall. He checked for a pulse and found one, but it was faint.

Roberts began CPR compressions and heard more gurgling, a sound he took for attempts to breathe. He checked Griffin’s pulse and it was a bit stronger. He then heard sirens coming down the street and continued to give CPR until first responders from the Colorado Springs Fire Department took over.

“I let the experts take over. I told them if they needed me I would be over at my house,” said Roberts.

Griffin was transported to the hospital by ambulance. Roberts showed signs of smoke inhalation and was transported as well. He was released later that day. Investigators said the fire, which was out by the time firefighters arrived on the scene, was probably a grease fire and started on the stove.

Roberts never shied away from helping. His initial reaction upon seeing smoke coming from Griffin’s home was to help.

“When I saw the smoke my adrenaline kicked in,” he said. “My gut reaction was I did what I had to do. I’ve always been reactive, when there is something to do, you do it.”

During his 27-year U.S. Army career, and civilian career with Morale, Welfare and Recreation/Outdoor Recreation, Roberts learned first aid and CPR, but never had to use it. However, his training helped when it mattered most.

“We (take an oath) to serve, protect and defend,” Roberts said. “We help people.”

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui