By: Sgt. Melissa N. Lessard 504th Military Intelligence Brigade Public Affairs
(FORT HOOD, Texas, July 12, 2018)-- "We all have that bond," said Michael Bernquist. "It's one of those 'you and I are going to go into this house and there are flames shooting out the windows. Alright, I got your back.' I guess it's just the fact that it is so much like the military."
Sgt. 1st Class Bernquist, the BN noncommissioned officer in charge of BN operations, has been with the 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion since June 2018. He has been in the military for over 19 years.
He volunteers at the Gatesville Fire Department, he said. They receive 600 to 800 calls a year and he responded to 25 calls last month. They respond to various calls such as fires, vehicle wrecks, hazmat spills, EMS assists, and lift assists.
The GFD became an official organization in 1884 according to the City of Gatesville. Since this time, the organization has been purely a volunteer service. The department resides on what used to be a rodeo arena. They have a large building holding many firefighting vehicles from traditional ladder vehicles, brush vehicles, and even boats for search and rescue.
Bernquist shows dedication, commitment, and selfless service not only to the U.S. Army but to his local community by volunteering as a firefighter.
In 2014 the Gatesville Fire Department hosted an open house, which Bernquist attended, he said. He was interested in becoming a volunteer, so, he spoke to his command group.
"She said 'As long as you do not get hurt and you do not show up late for work,'" said Bernquist.
A couple of weeks later, he was back at the fire department to start his volunteer job, he said. He had to complete training. The department also has a smokehouse where they light fires and learn to extinguish them and practice limited visibility. They also host ladder drills with hoses.
On a slow week, he will work two to four hours at the department, Bernquist said. On a busy week, he will work up to or more than 30 hours.
Bobby Buster, the assistant chief, works with Bernquist.
"We need more people like him. He is a go-getter, and gets the job done," said Buster.
Recently, the department received a call because of a grass fire near the Pidcoke in Gatesville.
"We got the call at 2 p.m., and we were there until past midnight," said Bernquist. "I was in the command center trying to keep track of who is coming in, who is going out, and where. We have five or six water trucks. Each truck has 2,500 gallons of water at a time. They were empty within 30 minutes."
Various fire departments responded to the grass fire, from Jonesboro, Copperas Cove, Flat, Turnersville, and Evant, he said. He was relaying information to the different fire departments.
"He did an excellent job of running the command center," said Buster.
The fires department responds to many different calls. Bernquist said that as long as people come out alive, it is a good end.
Bernquist relates being in the military to being a firefighter. He said that there is a chain of command and structure. He has been in the Army for over 19 years and loves his Soldiers.
"I will drag them to the end of the earth," he said
It is the same for the fire department, said Bernquist. He enjoys the community service, meeting people and helping people.