Firefighters earn Army applause
August 14, 2009
By Jeremy Wise
- Fort Rucker firefights earn top kudos
FORT RUCKER, Ala.--Fort Rucker community members can take comfort in knowing their firefighting force is top notch. Four Fort Rucker and 6th Military Police Detachment - Fire Protection Division (FPD) firefighters recently earned Army and Installation Management Command (IMCOM) Southeast awards for heroism and excellence.
FPD training noncommissioned officer-in-charge (NCOIC) Staff Sgt. Jack Bradstreet captured the 2008 Department of the Army Military Fire Officer of the Year, marking the third consecutive year a local firefighter earned the award. Spc. Joshua Tabucbuc, a truck driver/pump operator at Toth Stagefield near Wicksburg, finished runner-up to Bradstreet and claimed the IMCOM Southeast Military Firefighter of the Year award.
Two Fort Rucker Fire Department civilians also earned honors when IMCOM Southeast named training captain Shayne Brown the Civilian Fire Officer of the Year and awarded Jarred Norman the Firefighter Heroism Award.
"The fact that personnel from Fort Rucker Fire Department have consistently been selected for these awards is an indication of the dedication and professionalism of our firefighters," Fort Rucker Fire Department Chief Steve Collins said. "Having personnel in the department being recognized as the best in the Army is quite an honor."
Bradstreet has served as the FPD training NCOIC for a year and a half. Before that, he served one year as the NCOIC of Air Ambulance Detachment, known as "Flatiron."
During his service here, he developed a training regimen for "Flatiron" firefighters that helped three of his Soldiers earn honors for technical competence. As training NCOIC, Bradstreet has instructed more than 200 military and civilian firefighters. He also filled in for Military Fire Chief/FPD NCOIC Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Merz when he took a two-month leave of absence.
"He is a leader, a true NCO. He truly cares about firefighters and Soldiers of the community," Merz said of Bradstreet.
Bradstreet said he was surprised his bosses nominated him for the award. "I guess Chief Collins and Sgt. 1st Class Merz saw something in my abilities," he said.
Bradstreet was quick to credit his Soldiers for his success. "We've got the best Soldiers in the military. You're only as successful as your Soldiers let you be. If you don't take care of them, they won't take care of you," he said.
Brown, along with Bradstreet, oversees military and civilian firefighters training here. He conducted quarterly aircraft egress and structural fire drills for all firefighters at the installation's 21 stations. "We stay on the road a lot at the beginning of the quarter. The live-fire training requirement adds to it," he said.
Brown also organized a recruiting school in order to reduce staffing shortages. The school teaches new firefighters basic medical and firefighting skills, hazardous material concerns and Aviation firefighting lessons.
Fort Rucker Fire Department's recent success inspires him to teach new recruits at a high level, Brown said. "When I go home at night, I can rest knowing the students are taught to the best of my abilities. I get on their level and do a lot of hands-on training. I teach with safety in mind," he said.
Norman credits Brown's training for saving him and a team member during a training accident last year. Only a few weeks before graduation in December, Norman and 13 others were finishing up training at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. While battling a fire as the nozzleman on a C-130 simulator, one of his crewmembers knocked the hose loose from his hands, engulfing Norman in fire.
"My first instinct was never panic. I reverted back to my training. I knew there wasn't anything I could do for me. The nozzleman protects his crew," he said.
The fire severely damaged Norman's gear, crystallizing his face guard and making it difficult to see. Despite that, Norman regained control of the hose and set the nozzle to a wide spray, keeping the fire off fellow crewmember Aaron Rhodes. Norman and Rhodes backed out of the plane behind the wide spray.
Norman said he does not want to be viewed as the only hero. "In my opinion, a firefighter is a hero. Anyone who would give up their life for another is a hero," he said. "I was doing what I was trained to do."
Tabucbuc said he believes he won his award because of his willingness to go the extra mile. "The way I look at it, everyone's got a job to do. When the moment arises, I'll take initiative," he said.
Tabucbuc said department leaders, including Merz and Bradstreet, have encouraged him to take on extra tasks. He is certified to be a crew chief even though he is currently a driver/operator.
"They started seeing I didn't mind taking on extra work. I'm always being trained for the next level," he said.
Collins said the four award winners show Fort Rucker's military and civilian firefighters "strive to provide the community the highest level of service possible."