On Dec. 15, 2022, at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, US Marine Corps Cpl. Chase Portello (right) received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for helping to save the life of Col. Carlos Urbina (right). Coffee or Die Magazine composite by Kenna Lee.
A US Marine Corps corporal is being lauded as a hero for helping to save the life of a fellow Marine.
And during a ceremony on Friday, Dec. 16, on Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, Cpl. Chase Portello received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his efforts.
Officials say the military police officer at Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 — the “Nighthawks” who chopper President Joe Biden and other top officials around the Capitol Region — was inside the S&G Restaurant in Quantico on Nov. 14 when he saw a man in Marine uniform collapse.
Portello didn’t know the officer — Col. Carlos Urbina, the director of the Command Element Information Division — but he figured he could help him. Before he enlisted in the Corps, Portello had served in South Carolina’s Flint Hill Fire Department.
“So I got up and helped,” he told Coffee or Die Magazine in an answer passed through a Marine public affairs officer.
In a June 19, 2018, photo, Col. Carlos Urbina, right, and his wife, Tammy Urbina, stand for the national anthem during a change of command ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. A Marine corporal aided in life-saving efforts when the colonel went into cardiac arrest on Nov. 14, 2022. US Marine photo by Lance Cpl. Megan E. Brown.
The corporal wasn’t alone. US Air Force Capt. Jennifer Fields also jumped to aid the colonel.
She told Portello she was a physician. He told her about his emergency medical technician training. They lowered the colonel to the deck and Portello started keeping his fellow Marine alive.
“I couldn't get the airway fully open, and his airway started to shut off,” the corporal said.
Neither the doctor nor Portello could find Urbina’s pulse, so they began CPR.
Cpl. Chase Portello (right), assigned to the "Nighthawks" of Marine Helicopter Squadron 1, is decorated by Col. Carlos Urbina, the director of Command Element Information Division, during an award ceremony at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on Dec. 16, 2022. Portello received a Navy Commendation Medal for his actions on Nov. 14, 2022, when he helped save Urbina's life. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joaquin Dela Torre.
Portello, 23, also remembers asking someone in the restaurant to fetch an automated external defibrillator, a machine that helps save the lives of people in cardiac arrest, and call emergency dispatchers.
The corporal and the captain took turns performing pumps and breathsm but they're not sure for exactly how long.
“Every step was deliberate, the way we did it, the doctor and I,” Portello said.
First responders arrived and rushed the unconscious Urbina to the Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. Urbina said he found out later that day that he’d had a heart attack, and hospital workers credited the captain and corporal with saving his life.
“I don't believe in coincidences,” Urbina said after Portello’s award ceremony. “I do believe that Marines are always ready. I was obviously surrounded by Marines. But in all honesty, most importantly, I think that it was an act of God. That said, not just a Marine around me, but Cpl. Portello, a Marine who has been trained in life-saving skills and is ready to perform to be there at the same time.”
Cpl. Chase Portello (right) receives a medal from Col. Carlos Urbina, the director of Command Element Information Division, left, during an award ceremony at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on Dec. 16, 2022. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joaquin Dela Torre.
The ceremony marked the colonel’s first formal introduction to Portello.
“I was unconscious when he met me, but what I do know about him is that when I was in a situation when my life depended on his hands, without me even knowing him, he acted,” Urbina, 52, said. “That, to me, speaks to the brotherhood of a Marine.”
Portello said first responders rarely get to meet the people they save, so the ceremony was an especially cool moment for him.
“The award is really nice and I’m very grateful for the command to give it to me, but the major award is getting to meet the person that I got to save,” Portello said. “It was just really cool to see him here living, walking around, and with his family.”
Editor's Note: This story was updated on Dec. 30, 2022, to reflect the time a Marine corporal and Air Force captain performed CPR on an unconscious colonel. It also was updated to correct the award Portello received.
Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.
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