FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Army News Service) -- Most police deputies in Washington state do not have formal training as a medic or a first responder. However, Pierce County deputy sheriff and Washington National Guard Spc. Sergio Sanchez is not like most deputies.
Sanchez has an extra set of skills that sets him apart from his fellow officers on the police force. He recently helped save two lives following a drive-by shooting and then a hit and run. He credits the combat medic training that he learned during his six years in the Army National Guard for his ability to save those lives.
Sanchez, 29, a six-year veteran in law enforcement, responded to a drive-by shooting, Jan. 17, during his night-patrol shift with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department in Spanaway, Washington. Upon arriving on scene, he found a man's leg bleeding from a bullet wound.
Sanchez's combat medic training kicked in. He knew exactly how to treat the wound and stop the bleeding from what he learned during his medic training in San Antonio, Texas. Sanchez grabbed his personal first aid kit from his squad car and started to perform lifesaving measures to stop the bleeding with gauze and a tourniquet. His Guard skills enabled him to stabilize the victim until he was transported to the local hospital.
About two weeks later in February, Sanchez responded to the scene of a hit-and-run call. Upon arrival, he saw a man lying in the middle of the road, bleeding from his head, unresponsive and barely breathing.
Again, Sanchez knew just what to do. He stabilized the victim's neck and spinal cord. He applied gauze and pressure to the head injury. Once again, Sanchez kept the victim stabilized until the fire department arrived and took the patient to the hospital.
"We don't usually see that kind of qualification and experience with a brand new deputy," said Pierce County Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Glen Carpenter, Sanchez's supervisor. "Most deputies do not have formal training as a medic or as a first responder. Having Sanchez's talent and ability to provide life-saving first aid to victims of crimes makes him a valuable resource to have in his precinct."
MEDIC AT AN EARLY AGE
Sanchez said that he wanted to be a medic since age 9. One day his father, an Army veteran, asked him to clean out a closet at home. As he was cleaning out the closet, he came across his father's first-aid bag from the Army. "I spent hours studying the many different pieces of medical equipment," Sanchez said.
Sanchez wanted to enlist in the Air Force initially to be a pararescue jumper, but his vision acuity did not qualify him. He decided to enlist in the Army. Sanchez drills as a combat medic with Washington National Guard Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery Regiment. He also teaches combat lifesaver skills or CLS to other Soldiers.
"The CLS skills are taught during any field training exercises," Sanchez said. "While working as a deputy, I also help teach others about tactical medical interventions."
At 15, Sanchez joined the Police Explorers post sponsored by the Lacey, Washington, police. He said the program is designed for youth interested in law enforcement. Most of the training is hands-on with full-time patrol officers, learning different aspects of the job.
From learning how to search buildings to learning handcuffing procedures, the Explorers learn a variety of law-enforcement techniques at a young age. Sanchez said they also go on "ride alongs" in patrol cars with officers and they compete against other Explorer posts from around the country in law enforcement techniques. Sanchez spent six years as an Explorer from 2004-2010.
From 2010-2012, he was a reserve police officer for the Lacey Police where he was able to do patrol work, Sanchez said. He was also an advisor for the Explorers for two years.
"I was able to train and mentor the youth about law enforcement. It was my way of helping the program," he said.
Sanchez is one of five cadet instructors for the Pierce County Cadets. He said he gets to continue giving back to the Explorer/Cadet programs by teaching and mentoring them in law enforcement.
Sanchez also worked as intern with the U. S. Marshals Service during college and said that it was an interesting experience being a part of the federal side of things.
At age 22, Sanchez enlisted in the National Guard in in Seattle because he felt obligated to serve his country.
"I didn't think it was right to enjoy the benefits and freedoms that were paid by former and current service members," Sanchez said. "I wanted to do my part."
Sanchez's father, Eliasy Sanchez, is a retired Army sergeant after 22 years of service. His brother is an active-duty Army specialist and stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, serving in military intelligence.
"When I returned from advanced individual training, I was hired with Enumclaw, Washington police as a patrol officer", Sanchez said. "I had some time in the bike unit and assisted in narcotics investigations. I enjoyed working with my partners, sergeants, and community. He then transferred to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office for more career opportunities and their amazing reputation.
"The department has been great to me and encourages development and a strong camaraderie to all."
Sanchez said his biggest challenge with the National Guard is getting medical training during drills. "Being a medic is important to other sections and my platoon is tasked out a lot to provide coverage to them," he said. "Trying to find time or get an opportunity to expand our knowledge in the medical field is our biggest obstacle."
"Good leadership is being personable and humble to your troops," said Sanchez. "Everyone will recognize whatever rank is on your chest and will follow it. But the mission and unit cohesion will suffer if the leader depends solely on his rank to get things done.
"I want to someday be a physician's assistant," said Sanchez. "The PA in our unit has been extremely helpful with injured Soldiers. He motivates the medial platoon to do more and to keep learning. Seeing him do his job is something I want to be a part of one day.
"If I become a PA, I wouldn't give up my law enforcement career," Sanchez said. "I would continue being a deputy and work as a PA through the Guard. I enjoy having two areas of responsibility right now and I would hold on to that."
Sanchez said the Army core values translate into his line of work. "From handling the high-stressed scenes to the community caretaking functions, each value works its way into the situation," he said.