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Awareness and action saves life

The 6th Street Bridge spans the Sun River on the Southwest side of Great Falls, Mont. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

The 6th Street Bridge spans the Sun River on the Southwest side of Great Falls, Mont. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- When Maj. Lis Schmidt prepared for drill Feb. 7, 2015, she had no idea the impact she would have on another person's life that day.

The day started like any other Saturday of drill: roll call and routine office work, followed by a trip to Malmstrom Air Force Base to complete her annual Air Force physical fitness assessment.

However, this day was about to become anything but routine.

As Schmidt made her way back to Gore Hill after completing her fitness test she observed a young lady in her early 20s standing on the edge of theĀ 6th Street Bridge.

"She looked distraught," said Schmidt.

Schmidt pulled her car to the side of the road and parked her car.

"No one had stopped yet," Schmidt said.

Schmidt called 911 to get emergency responders on the way, then approached the young lady and started a conversation with her.

"I told her 'Hi, my name is Lis,' and tried to get that personal contact," Schmidt said.

That is when Schmidt learned the girl wanted to end her life. She had been dealing with a difficult relationship and felt like life was no longer worth living.

Another man stopped and attempted to help talk the woman back to safety. The young lady was over the water and Schmidt and the man coaxed her back toward land.

"She wanted her coat and by that time there were a lot of people watching, not knowing what to do," Schmidt said. "I told her if she wanted her coat and keys she needed to come back over to our side to retrieve those for herself."

The woman then crossed back over the guard railing to safety and walked off of the bridge.

"By that time the cops had pulled up a little ways down the street," Schmidt said. "She was walking away from the river and the cops stopped her and put her in the ambulance."

Schmidt said that despite the woman being distraught, screaming and yelling at her, Schmidt attempted to talk to her in a low, calm voice.

"It was a natural instinct to pull over and try to help her," Schmidt said.

Schmidt attributes her experience in her civilian job as a school counselor and the suicide prevention training she received through the Guard for preparing her to take action in this situation.

"You don't have time to think, you just have to go and do it," Schmidt said. "You have to make split second decisions to save a person's life."

The entire incident lasted only 15 to 20 minutes, but seemed a lot longer to Schmidt. It was cold and windy and Schmidt was dressed in her PT clothes. The other man who stopped to assist was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.

"I was concerned about how many people had passed her, and no one took the time out of their day to stop and get involved," Schmidt said.

Schmidt's vigilance, situational awareness and courage to take action prevented a young woman from taking her own life and serves as an important lesson to her fellow Airmen.

"Here in the Guard we've had Guardsmen take their own lives," Schmidt said. "Know the signs."
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