‘It’s just what we do’: While off-duty, pair of MCAAP firefighters help assist driver in cardiac arrest

By Matthew Wheaton, Joint Munitions Command, Public and Congressional AffairsDecember 4, 2023

McAlester Army Ammunition Plant firefighters Koby Harris (left) and Hunter Reed demonstrate CPR procedures in the MCAAP Fire Station training room. The pair assisted a female driver in cardiac arrest, while they were on a lunch break from training sessions at the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in October.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – McAlester Army Ammunition Plant firefighters Koby Harris (left) and Hunter Reed demonstrate CPR procedures in the MCAAP Fire Station training room. The pair assisted a female driver in cardiac arrest, while they were on a lunch break from training sessions at the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in October. (Photo Credit: Gideon Rogers, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant) VIEW ORIGINAL
‘It’s just what we do’: While off-duty, pair of MCAAP firefighters help assist driver in cardiac arrest
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – McAlester Army Ammunition Plant firefighters Hunter Reed (left) and Koby Harris were recently recognized for assisting a driver in cardiac arrest. (Photo Credit: Gideon Rogers, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant) VIEW ORIGINAL

Firefighters Koby Harris and Hunter Reed recently displayed off-duty heroics, and they did so about 650 miles from their homebase.

On the last Monday in October, the pair, who are based at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, Oklahoma, was on a lunch break from training sessions at the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and they assisted a female driver in cardiac arrest.

Two days later, Matt Russell, the executive director of the Alabama Fire College, recognized Harris and Reed, as well as three other first responders who were on scene and provided aide.

“I’m pretty proud of them. I’m glad they were recognized,” said Shawn Johnson, MCAAP’s acting fire chief. “A lot of us first responders say ‘that’s what we’re trained to do. We’re just doing our job,’ but that doesn't make it any less than what it is. Those guys saved a life. It’s something to be noted.”

“It’s a good feeling to know that we made a difference even though we were a long way from home,” Harris said. “It just feels great.”

Reed, who spent 10 years as a firefighter with the McAlester Fire Department before joining MCAAP’s, echoes the sentiments of Harris.

“It’s nice to be recognized. It’s one of those things where it’s nice to have but it’s not required. This job that we do day-in and day-out, we’re not in it for the glory or the recognition. It’s a calling,” Reed said. “I know that any of the other guys that would have been down there would have done the exact same thing we did.”

Harris, who has been a firefighter with MCAAP for almost three years and has served as a volunteer firefighter in Stringtown, Oklahoma for seven years, vividly recalls what took place.

“When we were leaving the restaurant, a Tuscaloosa firefighter (Andrew Gamble) pointed out a car that had went off the road. That’s when everything started unfolding,” Harris said. “I went over there and there was a bystander, and I said, ‘what’s going on,’ and he said, ‘I can’t get her to answer me. I reached inside, and saw she wasn’t breathing.’ She did not have a pulse and was unresponsive to everything. I yelled for firefighter Reed, and he came over there, and I told him what was going on. He double checked and verified and proceeded to pull the driver out of the car and start CPR. While he was doing CPR, a sheriff’s deputy from Tuscaloosa County appeared, and I asked her if she had an AED in her vehicle. She happened to have one, and that’s when we hooked up the AED and administered a shock to the patient.

“At that point, another sheriff’s officer showed up. He was a paramedic, and he had a monitor with him. He hooked his pads up and by that time an ambulance showed up as well,” Harris added. “They started doing all the life-saving measures that they could in the field, and we got her loaded up in the ambulance and on her way. As far as we know, she made a recovery and was in the hospital, but we don’t know for sure on that.”

Like Harris, Reed remembers what took place back on Oct. 30, and he stated that it was a team effort. Addressing the issue at hand came instinctively.

“It sounds cliché, but you just revert to your training. I was already outside the truck, and he was still in the restaurant. When he came out, I had no idea what was going on. I heard Koby yell over for me. When I saw the car and where it was, I knew something wasn’t right,” Reed said. “It’s just instinct and training kind of kicks in and takes over. You just go to work and try to fix the problem.

“I know it’s a big deal to save somebody like that, but it’s just what we do. We deal with emergency situations day-in and day-out and respond like that,” Reed added. “I’m just very happy that this had a good outcome that we know about. We gave her a good solid chance to survive and make it further in her life. That’s enough reward as it is.”