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Heroic off-duty efforts garner prestigious award for 314th AW Airman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- “When he woke up and saw a man in uniform, he said he felt like he was in great hands,” said Master Sgt. Kyle Harris, 714th Training Squadron flight chief.

On the afternoon of Oct. 2, 2020, Harris pulled over after seeing a four car accident on his way home from work. He immediately got out of his car, rushed over to the scene and safely pulled two individuals from their vehicles, administering first aid to one who was severely injured.

“The first vehicle I came to was a van, it was upside down in the ditch and had a man inside who couldn’t get out,” Harris said. “I went back to my truck, pulled out my tire iron, busted the window out and helped him get out. As I went to the next two vehicles, I made sure everyone was out safe and sound and out of the way of traffic. The fourth vehicle I encountered, I noticed a man who couldn’t get out because the doors were wedged closed from the impact of the crash.”

Harris said he forced the door open and saw the man was badly injured. Harris then called for emergency services, followed by a call to his girlfriend to bring his first-aid kit from home, and kept the man awake until it got there. He then used the items in the medical kit to dress the man’s wounds.

“Going through self-aid buddy care in the military, we learn more than we realize,” Harris said. “A lot of the time you think you’re never going to use it or be in that situation, but then when you do, something like that comes in handy.”

The next day Harris visited the man and his wife at their house and found out he had a severe concussion to his head, fractured sinuses, a fractured eye socket, a dislocated pinky and “many bumps and bruises.”

Despite taking charge during the accident and rendering immediate aid, Harris remains humble about his efforts that day and emphasized that he was just doing what he would want someone to do for him.

“Even if someone has a flat tire on the side of the road, I’m going to pull over and make sure to help in any way I can,” Harris said. “I’ve been in those situations where people drive past you and don’t think twice about it – that’s not who I am.”

Lt. Col. Thomas Prestella, 714th TRS commander, echoed Harris’ statement, adding that his decision to act is indicative of who he is as a person.

“Service before self … in the uniform and out, Kyle puts the needs of others above his own,” Prestella said. “Part of Kyle’s story that doesn’t get told as much is the number of onlookers who drove by while Kyle provided first aid. Or how his son was in the car watching his dad save lives. It just goes to show you that Kyle is not only a great Airman – he’s also an exemplary father.”

Within the 714th TRS, Harris works on the coursework for students learning to be a C-130 loadmaster. He also flies with them, instilling the knowledge necessary to be the best loadmasters they can be.  

Harris said his future goals revolve around helping other people better themselves, furthering his education and retiring from the military.

“Service before self comes in daily tasks,” Harris said. “It’s not always about me, it’s what I can do for others. There’s no set standard on what it is. It’s not about how you look to others, it’s just about doing a good deed.”

Through his selfless actions, Harris was selected as the Air Education and Training Command winner of the 2021 Noncommissioned Officers Association’s Vanguard Award. This award annually recognizes a NCO who has performed a heroic act, on or off duty, which resulted in the saving of a life or the prevention of a serious injury.

“The Vanguard Award is to recognize those who have distinguished themselves through acts of heroism,” Prestella said. “When you hear MSgt Harris’ story, hero is the only word that comes to mind. The decision to submit him for the Vanguard Award was made the moment he got out of his vehicle and decided to act.”

As AETC’s award winner, Harris will serve as the command’s nominee at the Air Force-level.