Photo Information

Cpl. Nicholas Christensen executes infantry maneuvers during a training exercise in Okinawa, Japan. Christensen, a native of St. Charles, Ill. a machine gunner, provided lifesaving medical care to a gravely injured Marine after a vehicle collision in Oceanside, Calif., September 2023. (Department of Defense photo)

Photo by Department of Defense photo

Military Medical Training Proves Lifesaving

26 Sep 2023 | Staff Sgt. Melissa Karnath Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego

It was an ordinary Friday evening, Sept. 15th, as Cpl. Nicholas Christensen was driving back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California chatting with his buddy Lance Cpl. Ethan Feaster when suddenly a car turned left into traffic causing a horrific collision. Two of the motorcycle riders directly in front of Christensen’s truck swerved to miss the car, a third motorcycle rider attempted to avoid a collision, but it was unavoidable.

“I blocked the road with my truck and ran to him [motorcycle rider],” said Christensen, field instructor with Weapons Field and Training Battalion. “I saw the rider was severely injured and ran to get my medical bag.”

Christensen, primarily a machine gunner also has extensive military medical training. From basic Combat Lifesaving Course and Tactical Combat Casualty Care to the more advanced course called Valkryie, which teaches phlebotomy and transfusions, Christensen is trained. Due to his medical training, he had maintained a medical supply bag in his truck for the past two years, but never had an occasion to use it.

“Thank God he had his medical bag,” said Lance Cpl. Ethan Feaster, a Marine rifleman by trade and native of Redmond, Wash. “He [Christensen] really saved the day.”

Christensen, a native of St. Charles, Ill., immediately began triaging the motorcycle rider. One of the other motorcycle riders, Lance Cpl. Ramyar Mohammedali, a land surveyor with 7th Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, ran over to assist. Christensen noticed the motorcycle rider had an Eagle, Globe and Anchor on his jacket and assumed the rider was either an active duty Marine or Marine veteran.

“We realized he was not breathing, so I took off his helmet to help open an airway and blood poured out,” said Christensen. “We learned the motorcycle rider’s name was Mike.”

While holding Mike’s head, Christensen turned him into a recovery position on the asphalt with the gash in his head facing upward to help stop the bleeding. It was at this time that Mike started breathing. Blood poured out of Mike’s mouth with every breath. Feaster held Mike’s head as Christensen wrapped it with bandages. Christensen then moved to wrap and splint both of Mike’s arms, which were both mangled and shattered badly.

Within about five minutes, local police arrived on the scene.

“We thought the police department officers would take over, but they didn’t have medical supplies,” said Feaster.

The police officers observed the situation and decided to let Christensen continue to take the lead on the care he was providing to Mike. Feaster continued to hold Mike’s head as the Marines did not have a neck brace.

"I talked to Mike; I told him he is a fighter, and you are a Marine,” said Christensen. “If I stopped talking to him, his breathing would slow.”

Christensen said he didn’t feel any emotions in the moment, because the medical training he received in the Marines just kicked in. Christensen continued to stabilize and talk to Mike.

“It is pretty intense and remarkable what Christensen and Feaster did,” said 1stSgt. James Grunbacher, company first sergeant from Weapons Field and Training Battalion and a native of Pinole, Calif. “Fortunately for that Marine, these two were there. If they wouldn’t have been there, a very different outcome likely would have happened.”

About ten minutes after the collision, emergency medical systems arrived on the scene. As soon as they saw the situation, EMS personnel immediately called for a helicopter. Christensen briefed EMS personnel on the medical care he had provided, and EMS immediately lifted Mike onto a stretcher and didn’t have any additional medical care to provide since Christensen had provided everything they would have done.

“I know when someone is airlifted it is never a good sign and there was a chance, he may not make it,” said Christensen.

Christensen said he always took Interstate 5 back to Camp Pendleton from being out in town and never drove through the city. But this night, he drove through the city back to Pendleton.

“God puts you in the right place at the right time,” said Christensen. “That was God leading me that way; He was working through me.”

Christensen’s actions demonstrate how all courses and training in the Marine Corps can be applied to everyday scenarios.

“If it wasn’t for that medical kit and Cpl. Christensen’s expertise, we wouldn’t know if he [Mike] was going to survive or not,” said Mohammedali, who has visited Mike every day at the hospital and has kept Christensen updated daily. “It looked ugly.”

By the time Mike was taken to the hospital, Christensen and Feaster were covered in blood from their hands to their shoulders.

Christensen's Marine Corps service is coming to an end this year. However, he envisions a future marked by continued service, with plans to attend the fire academy early next year and then pursue EMS training near Houston, Texas.

“Cpl. Christensen is a true hero. He not only provided lifesaving aid but took charge of the situation and did so regardless of his own safety,” said Mohammedali. “Cpl. Christensen actions saved the life of a Marine that evening.”

In the crucible of chaos, his training wasn’t just a skill, it was a lifeline, a beacon of hope in the bleakest of moments.

Throughout Christensen's actions, he exemplified our Corps' values. His unwavering dedication exemplifies the caliber of individuals who proudly wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. As Christensen moves forward with his life goals, his actions exemplify limitless potential for those who answer the call to serve and may inspire future Marine recruits.

9th Marine Corps District