Chaplain Brad Kelsey, right, spent 24 hours with Fire Station 105 at the McChord Field fight line.

Chaplain Brad Kelsey, right, spends 24 hours with Fire Station 105 at the McChord Field fight line.

Fire Station 105: Air Force, Army, and Civilians Fight Fires Together

By Chaplain Brad Kelsey

This November, I had the tremendous privilege of spending 24 hours with a joint team of firefighters consisting of Air Force, Army, and civilian personnel at Fire Station 105, at the McChord Field [Washington] fight line.

These men and women are highly trained professionals who stand ready to act on a moment’s notice. During my short time with them, I participated in a variety of training exercises such as Ebola-response training and traffic-accident rescue training. I also learned about the various schools the firefighters attended, the certifications they earned, and their real-world experience.

I would call them the good-hands people. This experience evoked memories of my past service in civilian life. Several years ago, I served as the pastor of a church situated in a small town in the rural countryside of New England. At one point during my time there, the local fire chief invited me to become a part of the town’s volunteer fire department. I was excited when the chief looked at me and said, “There’s one caveat. Since you don’t have the required formal training needed for certification, you can’t technically be a firefighter; you’ll just be a helper who accomplishes simple tasks like loading and unloading equipment from the truck.”

I experienced some basic informal training in the next couple of months and then it happened: a fire was consuming a two-story house located about a half-mile from my church. I grabbed my gear, jumped in my car, and rushed to the scene. As I arrived at the residence, I was met by the sight of a home with bright orange and yellow flames roaring out of the second-story windows. It was a harrowing sight to say the least, yet then something unexpected happened.

I was only the third person on the scene, so the fire chief looked at me and yelled, “Brad, grab that hose!” From there, he proceeded to point at the flames coming up out of the windows.

I knew what he wanted me to do.

I heard the voice in the back of my head say, “Hey, wait a second! I’m a helper, not a certified firefighter! I thought I was supposed to load and unload equipment from the truck!”

Instead, I acted!

I grabbed the hose, pointed the nozzle at the flames, eased the lever back, and started putting water on the fire. Within minutes, other firefighters began to arrive on the scene, but by that point, it was all but extinguished. Mission accomplished!

That was an exhilarating experience and it significantly heightened my appreciation for firefighters in that small New England town, and I also had a newfound appreciation for firefighters everywhere, not the least of which would be our very own here at McChord Field.

When I reflect on my time in New England and my time at McChord Field, I thank God for the professionals who stand ready to help in times of crisis. The men and women living on McChord Field can sleep well this evening, thanks to the highly trained men and women of Fire Station 105 and the other stations like it here on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

We truly are in good hands.

Capt. Brad Kelsey is chaplain of the 627 Air Base Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. He is endorsed by the Regular Baptist Chaplaincy Ministries. He was previously pastor of East Wallingford (Vermont) Baptist Church. This article originally appeared in the Northwest Airlifter (Dec. 4, 2014).