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Airmen serve community as volunteer firefighters

Volunteer firefighters of the Westside Fire and Rescue Department listen to
Tim Brown, fire chief, during their bi-monthly meeting.  The volunteers meet
to maintain their trucks and train firefighting techniques.  (U.S. Air Force
photo by Senior Airman Angelita Lawrence)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Volunteer firefighters from Lanier County's Westside Fire and Rescue Department listen to Tim Brown, fire chief, during their bi-monthly meeting. The volunteers, including several from Moody, meet to maintain their trucks and train firefighting techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Angelita Lawrence)

Volunteer firefighters of the Westside Fire and Rescue Department re-lay
water hoses in their truck as part of bi-monthly training and equipment
up-keep.  This method of packing the fire hose prevents it from becoming
tangled and makes it easily accessible when needed. (U.S Air Force photo by
Senior Airman Angelita Lawrence)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Volunteer firefighters from Lanier County's Westside Fire and Rescue Department re-lay water hoses in their truck as part of bi-monthly training and equipment up-keep. The volunteer firefighters, including several Moody Airmen, use this packing method to prevent the hoses from becoming tangled and allow easy access when needed. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Angelita Lawrence)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Risking their life to save another is a common theme among Moody's rescue community.

 

However, for some Moody members, this concept is something they take home with them. Volunteering as local firefighters, they keep members of their neighborhood safe.

 

Tech. Sgt. Jason King, 23rd Operations Support Squadron NCO-in-charge of aircrew flight equipment, Tech. Sgt. Scott Boggs, 23rd Medical Group laboratory technician, and Staff Sgt. Brandon Hatfield, 23rd OSS aircrew flight equipment craftsman, have served as volunteer firefighters in Lanier County since 2006.

 

A neighbor, who was already fighting fires, peaked Sergeant King's interest in becoming a volunteer.

 

"He came to me in June of 2006 and asked if I was interested in becoming a volunteer," he said. "I jumped at the opportunity."

 

Sergeant Boggs began his firefighting service shortly before Sergeant King, but both went through the same training session.

 

This session, called a training module, is an accreditation course given by the county that all volunteers must pass in order to become certified as firefighters.

 

"All volunteers must pass 'Mod 1' which is a 14-week intensive course on equipment, vehicles and first responder care," said Sergeant Hatfield, who recently completed the course to become a firefighter at Lakeland Fire Department.

 

Volunteers are licensed to respond to all manners of emergencies that require first-response attention including fires, car-wrecks and health emergencies.

 

While the in-class sessions were essential to learning the basics to firefighting, Sergeant Hatfield said getting experience in the field is to the key to becoming a good firefighter.

 

"Training cannot prepare you for the real-world experience you get the first time you respond to a fire," said Sergeant Hatfield.  "My palms were sweating, adrenaline was pumping and the blaze was intense. It was a house-trailer fire that was burning at 1800-degrees Fahrenheit.

 

 "The biggest problem with that kind of fire is containing the spread, he added. "A trailer-home becomes fully engulfed in 7 minutes. This means we must work fast to save that trailer and any other neighboring homes."

 

While, some Moody Airmen received their firefighting knowledge through training provided by Lanier County, others brought their career expertise into volunteering.

 

Billy Clemons, 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron emergency services flight fire inspector, began his firefighting career as an Airman at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in 1991.  After four years active-duty service, he became a civilian firefighter for Moody in 1996. He became the Moody's fire inspector in 2002.

 

"The difference between being a volunteer and a career firefighter is that as a volunteer, you're involved more intimately with the community you are a part of," said Mr. Clemons.  "Many firefighters are not required to be a part of the community they protect; we as volunteers are assigned to the department where we live."

 

Firefighting not only makes a difference in the physical well-being of their neighbors but also brings relief in different, unexpected ways.

 

"Oftentimes smaller communities who cannot support a permanently staffed and paid fire department suffer from higher tax rates," he added.  "With our help as volunteers, we can bring a level of safety and stability that can lower our communities insurance and tax rates."

 

All four agree the military has given life experience that has translated into their challenging firefighting service.

 

"Our service lends credibility when protecting our communities," said Sergeant Boggs.  "It has given us a level of self confidence you need to have when responding to an emergency."

 

Being a volunteer goes far beyond the recognition gained in enlisted performance reports, he added.

 

"This is not an opportunity for someone to just get ahead," said Sergeant Boggs.  "You have to truly love fighting fires in order to do this job."

 

When volunteering as a firefighter, you put your life on the line to help save others, said Sergeant King.  Any mistake can cost someone their home, livelihood or worse.

 

"Anyone looking at volunteering as a firefighter must know this is what they want to do," he added.  "This is not for the faint of heart; you have to be mentally and physically prepared for some very harsh conditions.

 

Tim Brown, fire chief for Westside Fire and Rescue Department of Lanier County, said his department's success relies heavily on the support provided by Moody members. 

 

"I've been here since 1976, and we've had about 60 percent of our volunteers be military members," he said.  "I've really appreciated the professionalism and hard work that our military volunteers have put in. I'm always looking for a few more"