MHAFB equipment trainer saves life and aids investigation

  • Published
  • By A1C Gary Hilton
  • 366th Fighter Wing

Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Cliché, 366th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment lead trainer, has been an avid base jumper for four years.

      Base jumping can be a thrill, but it doesn't come without risks. Cliché’s experience taught him the value in following safety protocols to a "T". And knows when somethings gone wrong.

On August 1st, 2019, Cliché joined a group for a jumping session at Perrine Memorial Bridge over the Snake River Gorge near Twin Falls, Idaho. During his routine check, a nearby member of a student group incorrectly prepped her parachute.

“She had a slightly open canopy,” Cliché said. “She didn’t do the right procedures, which caused her to fall and hit the ground.”

When he first joined the Air Force, Cliché had ambitions of becoming a Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape trainer.

“I went through SERE training during survivor school, and part of it was a one--week first responder course,” Cliché said.

Tapping into his recollected instincts, Cliché immediately calls 911 as a fellow jumper descended into the canyon.

“I told her to wave her hand if she needed me down there,” Cliché said. “Once there, she checked on the woman (who still wasn’t moving), and then she waved her hand, and that’s when I jumped down.”

Cliché and his fellow jumper suspected that the woman had a back injury. Transporting her back up the canyon proved to be impossible.

“The only way was down the river,” Cliché said. “We called a friend that we knew had a boat, and we knew she had a back brace.”

After stabilizing her Cliché and his crew carried the woman 17 meters to the rescue boat, which transported her down river to the nearest dock, where an ambulance waited.

“We found out later that we were right about the back injury,” Cliché said. “Her back was completely broken, so it was good that we got her down the river as quickly as we did.”

Cliché and company successfully saved the woman’s life. This, however, didn’t mark Cliché’s last adventure at Snake River Gorge.

On New Year’s Eve, he returned to Snake River for another excursion. And once again, twice in the same year, Cliché was the right man, at the right place, at the right time.

The excursion started off as planned; gear check, jump, and re-ascend to the top of the bridge.

“We usually climb up the canyon wall to get back to the top, “Cliché said. “I was climbing up and I was looking at my feet (because there was snow on the ground. And there was a knife there, and I quickly realized there was blood on the knife.”

Cliché stayed with the knife and contacted first responders. He then escorted them down the canyon to the crime scene.

“I graduated college with a degree in forensic science,” Cliché said. “I surprise myself with some of the things I remember.”

The knife was later found to be connected to an attempted murder case. Without Cliché’s discovery, the evidence may not have ever been discovered.

Thankfully, Cliché’s past experiences shaped his ability to act in both situations.

“I definitely don’t think that makes me a hero at all. I think it makes me a decent member of society. If we see someone in need, and you have a certain skill set, you utilize that skill set,” Cliché said. “You do what you can.”