Serving Her Community: Airman shares Native American Heritage

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt Heather Cozad Staley
  • 446th Airlift Wing

Every November, the Department of the Air Force celebrates National American Indian Heritage Month to recognize the rich culture and talent brought to the Air and Space Forces by our service members and employees who identify as Indigenous people of our nation.  

With over 574 federally recognized tribes, there are hundreds of different cultures that are as unique as the people they represent.

Senior Master Sergeant Emiliana Harris, the 446th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Health Services Manager and Air Reserve Technician, is a proud member of the Snoqualmie Tribe. 

For Harris, service before self is not just an Air Force tenet but a way of life. 

Her office can be found down a winding hallway, toward the back of her building. This is where she prefers to be, behind the scenes, keeping the squadron running smoothly with a smile. 

“I was raised to serve my community,” said Harris. “If I wasn’t helping with my family farm, I was at the Tribal Office helping.”

Harris will soon have the honor of posting the colors at the Snoqualmie Tribe’s Veteran’s Day ceremony as part of the Snoqualmie Tribe Color Guard. She has also marched in the annual Auburn Veteran’s Day parade and participated in many ceremonies and events in this capacity. 

She provides a quiet, respectful presence, honoring the veterans and the country to which they have served and the military tie running wide in her family.

Harris is the youngest of 8 children, half of whom joined the military, and the spouse of a retired Air Force member boasting a 20-year active duty career. Family and the ingrained spirit of service were the motivation for Harris to answer the nation's call and continue for 37 years and counting.

“I wanted to be like my brothers and be a Marine,” said Harris. Drawn to the medical field, Harris found different medical opportunities were available with the Air Force. The journey began with the 446th Airlift Wing, as Harris was first assigned to an active duty detachment. 

After serving four years of active duty, she transferred to the reserves and was promptly tasked to support Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. One of Harris’ most notable experiences during the deployment was standing up the contingency hospital, Royal Air Force Hospital Nocton Hall, Lincolnshire, England.

Harris again answered the call to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, serving at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. 

Ten years ago, Harris returned to her roots, transferring to the 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base, Washington.
“This is where I like to serve,” said Harris. 

When military retirement eventually calls, Harris plans to continue to serve her community, pouring her extra time into the Snoqualmie Tribe as an elder, alongside her brothers, both veterans and members of the tribal government. 

Harris also recently retired after nearly a decade from her role as the commissioner of the Snoqualmie Gaming Commission.

When asked what she would like to see during NAIHM, Harris encouraged taking the time to increase cultural awareness. 

“The local tribes still exist and are still growing their culture,” said Harris. “Visit a museum, attend a pow-wow, or another event and learn about the local cultures.”

The 446th Airlift Wing recognizes SMSgt. Emiliana Harris and the rest of the American Indian and Alaska Natives who serve as Reserve Citizen Airmen with great honor, dedication, and distinction. These service members have built a legacy of courage, professionalism, and selfless service that inspires fellow members and future generations to come.