Michelle Cowart
Frontline Staff

Assistant Chief James Ashdown watched with pride as his team received coins and kudos from Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Garrison Commander, Col. Jason Wolter, July 19 during the commander's visit to Fire Station No. 1.

Ashdown described the occasion as bittersweet. His gentle smile and twinge of sadness in his eyes hinted at the mixed emotions he felt about leaving the people and place he called 'a family away from home' for the past two decades.

Ashdown started his firefighting career on Fort Stewart in 1988, following in the footsteps of his father who worked as a driver and operator. Ashdown progressed through the ranks starting as a firefighter and working his way up to assistant chief. He has received numerous accolades and has always been a major asset to the operations of the department.

Ashdown reflected on closing this chapter of his life and starting the next one.

"I'm excited to be retiring but I'm nervous too," Ashdown said, "It's been a good career."

He will take his knowledge and expertise to the Liberty County Sherriff's officewhere he will work in the narcotics unit as an investigator.
Over his career, several missions stood out.

"There have been some bad ones and some good ones," Ashdown said. "This last one, at Jasmine Court, was definitely a good memory because we saved all their stuff, all of their belongings. The guys, as a team, took the stuff out of the place and we were able to salvage computers, just everything."

"Personal belongings that couldn't be replaced, pictures. That's amazing to me because we normally lose structural fires that have been in the attic for a period of time."

Some of his fondest memories and what he will miss the most, according to Ashdown, have to do with the band of brothers, the family away from home that he has been a part of for the past 26 years.

"The guys, the team, the family," Ashdown said. "The relationships with everyone here -- we cook together, we play cards together, I mean, we're here 16 days a month with each other. Technically, we're almost more of a family here than at home. I'm just going to miss that."