FORT LEE, Va. – Fort Lee’s Fire and Emergency Services has a new fire chief.
Michael L. Bowling is the former deputy chief, Naval Region Mid-Atlantic, headquartered in Norfolk. He replaced Phillip L. Wilkinson, who retired in December after 41 years of government service.
“I love this area,” said the 46-year-old Bowling. “I’ve been in southern Virginia for 28-29 years now, and my family has always enjoyed the recreational opportunities around Richmond.”
In his new position, Bowling will oversee administrative and other functions; training efforts and about 70 employees located at three firehouses.
“I think this an incredible base, and I could not be more excited to be here,” he said.
A former Sailor, Bowling spent 24 years in government service – all of it in Hampton Roads. He previously visited the installation about four years ago, accompanying his son to the MEPS located at the corner of Mahone and A avenues.
“My wife and I drove on the base that day and we were impressed,” he recalled. “I was impressed with how the base was maintained. It looked inviting.”
As the new chief, Bowling said priorities include reviewing policies and procedures.
“We need to be able to understand what’s in place,” he said. “We also need to take a firm look at what’s needed and not needed and how we can operate efficiently in an environment where we’re always being tasked to do more with less. It’s a real juggling act.”
Also on the chief’s radar is personnel strength.
“The most pressing issue is the need for staffing,” said Bowling. “It is centric to fire and emergency services and something that is systemic across all components. But, we’ve got to get it right, we’ve got to get it up and we need to better define what we do.”
In the community relations arena, Bowling said he is thinking of bringing back the CPR and Stop the Bleed programs aimed at educating community members.
“Those are meaningful events that increase public engagement,” he said.
Bowling also pointed to resuming child-youth programs. For years, FES hosted -- in conjunction with Family and Morale, Welfare and Morale – a multi-day camp in which tweens and teens learned about fire safety and emergency procedures.
FES is a division of the Directorate of Emergency Services, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Lee. Its mission is to protect life and property by providing emergency fire protections, fire prevention, public education and emergency assistance to Fort Lee and surrounding communities, according to DES.