Hometown Heroes: Harris receives lifesaving award

  • Published
  • By Jessica L. Kendziorek
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

For her quick response and emergency treatment to help save a victim's life, Slidell Patrol Officer Rachel Harris, a 403rd Security Forces Squadron technical sergeant and squad leader received a lifesaving award, Oct. 21, 2023.

For police officers responding to a call, encountering the unknown is part of the job. Harris, who works as a patrol officer in the Slidell Police Department, Louisiana, responded to the scene of an accident with a possible driving under the influence call, Feb. 26, 2022. When she arrived, it was so much more.

“I arrived on scene at the same time as one of the St. Tammany Parrish Sherriff’s deputies, and I saw the vehicle up against the building,” said Harris. “When I made it to the driver side door, I realized the window was shattered.”

While she was responding to the accident call, the St. Tammany Parish Sherriff’s Office deputy was dispatched in the area at the same time for a gunshots fired call.

Harris said she and the Sherriff’s Deputy found blood on the driver and began searching for the source of the blood. They discovered a gunshot wound to the right upper chest, above the collar bone, along with gunshot wounds to the left arm and right wrist.

“We removed her from the vehicle and tried to stop the bleeding,” said Harris. “While we were doing this, other officers arrived on scene to help, but the victim stopped responding, and I started CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), but she was still losing blood.”

Harris said that while she performed CPR, others were trying to treat the wounds, while she gave verbal cues to help. Harris credits her quick thinking and response at being able to locate the wounds and treat the victim until paramedics arrived to the Tactical Combat Casualty Care and the Integrated Defense Leadership Course training she received in the military.

“Honestly a lot of what I can do now is because of the training I receive in the military, and sometimes I wonder why we have to do the training so repetitively,” said Harris. “But when you actually have to do it in the real world, like in a situation like this, it just becomes instinctive because of how many times you have done it in training, so when it counts, you don’t have to think about how to do it, you just do it.”

Harris said that she would even recommend the TCCC training for local police departments because as a patrol officer she has come across more gunshot victims in her civilian job than in her military career and as an officer they only receive basic first aid training.

Harris shared this story with her commander when discussing a change in job duties from combat arms instructor to squad leader. She explained how her military training benefits her in civilian life.

Lt. Col. Bruce Lawler, 403rd SFS commander, noted that she was excited about this incident and while listening to Harris talk about it, he said, “She just views this incident as normal operations, while everyone else sees it as something heroic.”

Lawler stated that while the training for security forces is more challenging and has more features than basic TCCC or even basic first aid, Harris’ knowledge helped save a life.

“We as leaders need to continue to give our Airmen the exposure to the training they need and have the right equipment at the right time, so when they need to apply that skill set, they are prepared,” said Lawler.

“Her military TCCC and IDLC training helped to keep that woman alive,” said Lawler. “The more we listen to our Airmen, the more we learn about the truly remarkable things that they are doing, in both their military and civilian careers, and a more deserving person (Harris) couldn’t be recognized.”