FORT MEADE, MD (SSG Alex Montes) – Attached to a SEAL team in 1987, one Airman began what was to be a normal parachute training out of a Marine CH-46 helicopter at 13,000 feet. Freefalling around 3,500 feet
watching vast Virginia state scenery; the Airman opened his chute, everything was clear until another Airman pummeled through his parachute.
The Air Force Pararescue staff sergeant woke up in the hospital several days later with no recollection of what happened.
“The memory I have of the actual event is very limited to the physical aspect, the things that happened were described to me,” retired Master Sgt. Scott Gearen said. “The mind blocks out a lot of the pain, so I don’t remember much prior to being on the airplane and jumping and then two or three days later I knew I was severely hurt.”
Gearen sustained major injuries to the point where he was unrecognizable. Doctors found that he had fractured his skull in multiple places along with several bones and sockets shattered.
For three months of his recovery, Gearen knew he was in good hands and was very confident of being taken care of and everything would be ok. Having family, friends and Airmen around him pushed Gearen to remain in the service. His drive to stay on active duty was only a few of the reasons he continued to serve.
“I wanted to finish in my Pararescue career on my terms rather than having an incident like that cause me to have an injury that I couldn’t recover from. I was blessed and lucky enough that my injuries were something that I could overcome. It was a matter of the willpower and the will to survive and the desire to want to continue being a Pararescuemen.”
Lying in the hospital bed, Gearen began to think about the positives of his current situation. He started to recollect of being in technical school at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico and hearing about the commandant at the time, Senior Master Sgt. Donald Baehr, with similar experiences. Which pushed him to recover faster.
“He’s had two parachute malfunctions and had severe injuries on both of them and came back in the career field as a Pararescuemen. I was thinking I only had one parachute malfunction … I can’t quit yet unless I have least three. If he can’t quit, I can’t quit.”
As his recovery progressed, Gearen remembers it being a team effort to help support the recovery. With some thinking that he may never come back, they still supported his goals to stay a Pararescuemen. To him another motivator to prove that he was still a strong and able Airman. Gearen mentions it was an overall team effort, which helped him put his situation in perspective and continued to jump 18 months after the accident.
Gearen gave a few words of advice for Airmen, mentioning that everybody is going to have tough times, some more than others, good day and bad days.
“You find something deep inside you that is going to make you want to continue to pursue your job or your goal and you just don’t quit. You just keep going until you succeed,” he said.
From his experience, Gearen has made an effort since to reach out and continue being an Airman, to share his message on resilience.
“After hearing about Gearen’s heroic journey, and knowing that he is a part of our 70 ISRW family, we knew he would be a true ‘Hero Among Us’ to represent at this year’s Air Force Birthday Ball,” Capt. Aaron Morphy, 707th Communications Squadron.
This year, as an extension to the 70th ISRW family, he will be the guest speaker for the Fort Meade and Andrews Air Force Base, Md., 69th Air Force Birthday Ball. Guest that attend the event will have a chance to meet and hear his story of 29 years of resiliency through tough times, and his inspiring journey as an American Airman.
Gearen notes to always do your best because you never know how the choices you make today may impact your tomorrow.