By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsJanuary 25, 2019
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- A Fort Rucker Department of the Army civilian police officer received the Superior Civilian Service Award Jan. 22 for his life-saving efforts on the scene of a vehicle accident on Alabama State Route 27 within post jurisdiction in July.
Cpl. Justin L. Bowley, Directorate of Public Service civilian police officer, received the award from Col. Brian E. Walsh, Fort Rucker garrison commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jasper C. Johnson, garrison command sergeant major, in front of his peers and supervisors at the Directorate of Public Safety Jan. 22.
Also attending the award ceremony were Ashlynn Helms, the victim in the crash who is "pretty much fully recovered," she said, and her grandfather, retired Command Sgt. Maj Hartwell Wilson.
The ceremony took an emotional turn when Wilson said a few words about Bowley's efforts on July 2, fully crediting the police officer with saving his granddaughter's life.
"When you're in combat, they're your friends and your comrades and it hurts. But when it's a family member, let me tell you ... it's to your heart and your core," he said. "And had you not done what you did, my granddaughter would not be here. So, I would be proud to have you on a team in combat, or anywhere, and I would recommend you at any time. Thank you."
And while it was Bowley who arrived on the scene first, immediately rendering first aid and then making the decision to medically evacuate Helms via helicopter rather than by ambulance, the police officer credited the rest of his team with ensuring everything went just the way it needed to go to save Helms' life.
"The award is absolutely great, but just seeing her back there in good health is even better," he said during the ceremony where he also learned he earned the 2018 DPS Police Officer of the Year Award. "(There were) a ton of people and things that went into play for everything to work smoothly. From dispatchers to MEDEVAC crew to trauma surgeons and everything, to other MPs opening Faulkner Gate for emergency vehicles to get through ... so, all kinds of people and all kinds of things happened for this to work out smoothly."
It was also revealed during the ceremony that Bowley possesses a particular set of skills that make him an ideal person to have on the scene where there are people in need of advanced medical attention -- on top of being the police officer of the year, he is also an emergency medical technician and former firefighter.
"Corporal Bowley was the right person at the right place at the right time," said Fort Rucker Chief of Police Marcel Dumais. "We're lucky to have him -- the first person on the scene can kind of do a medical evaluation. It's nothing but a great thing for us. And not just in his medical capacity -- he's a great police officer. Every day he comes to work, he's motivated -- he loves being out in the streets."
And Helms, who said she's much better now after months of recovery, said that having Bowley and the rest of the Fort Rucker emergency response team on the job makes her feel like she's in good hands when on post.
"I think it's awesome that he did that. I really might not be here if he hadn't done what he did. He really deserves the award." she said. "They all do a good job -- I feel safe when I'm on Fort Rucker."
That sentiment is music to the ears of Bowley.
"It's part of what we do every day," he said. "It's so rewarding to see her come in here -- we don't normally get to see the aftereffects of (what we do). I heard from a third party that she was in rehab and that she was good, which completely blew me away because it was a pretty bad day. I didn't think it looked good at all."
While playing a major role in saving one life would be a highlight for pretty much anyone, Bowley did so three times in 2018.
"One guy had a stroke at the gas station mini mall, and I recognized the symptoms and got him care," he said. "And the other one was a guy who had a heart attack while running on the air assault track. I did CPR on him, established an airway and AED (automated external defibrillator) and got a pulse back. He's OK now -- back in the military again doing his thing."
But he said it's not just him, it's the team at Fort Rucker.
"This is the greatest department ever -- honestly," Bowley said. "The people that work here ... just perfect. We all mesh well, everything just runs really smoothly -- I love it here. Between the firefighters and EMS (emergency medical services) personnel, the police officers, law enforcement, MEDEVAC -- we're one big family and really cohesive with what we do."