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124th Fire Department Named Air Guard's Best

Firefighters Tech. Sgt. Craig Murdock and Staff Sgt. Robert Hunt conduct inspections on equipment at the 124th Fire Department, recently named Fire Department of the Year. (Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Tom Gloeckle)

Firefighters Tech. Sgt. Craig Murdock and Staff Sgt. Robert Hunt conduct inspections on equipment at the 124th Fire Department, recently named Fire Department of the Year. (Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Tom Gloeckle)

Firefighters Tech. Sgt. Craig Murdock and Staff Sgt. Robert Hunt conduct inspections on equipment at the 124th Fire Department, recently named Fire Department of the Year. (Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Tom Gloeckle)

Firefighters Tech. Sgt. Craig Murdock and Staff Sgt. Robert Hunt conduct inspections on equipment at the 124th Fire Department, recently named Fire Department of the Year. (Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Tom Gloeckle)

GOWEN FIELD, Boise, Idaho -- The 124th Fire Department here was named Fire Department of the Year by the Air National Guard Fire Chiefs Association July 13.

The Greg O. Winjum Fire Department of the Year award honors the top performing fire department in the Air National Guard. The Gowen Field Fire Department, part of the 124th Civil Engineer Squadron, received the award for their distinguished accomplishments in nine categories ranging from department management, training, fire prevention and technical services to quality of life and human relations.

"It is a great honor to work with an outstanding team of dedicated and professional firefighters," said Col. J.R. Compton, commander of the 124th Fighter Wing.

In addition to their regular duties, the firefighters have gone above and beyond to actively participate in Air Force programs and develop new, innovative initiatives.

The majority of the firefighters are members of at least one professional organization like the Airman's Council and Senior Enlisted Council. Two firefighters serve as president presidents, one of the Airman's Council and the other of the Enlisted Association. The department has even created their own wellness and fitness initiative that incorporates fire department obstacles similar to the firefighter challenge in the revered Silver Flag exercise, an annual training exercise conducted at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

"Many of our firefighters are on the Idaho Air National Guard marksmanship team including the team captain," said Chief Master Sgt. Bill Mattravers, Fire Chief.

Two fire department personnel received recognition for coordinating and supporting the Idaho State Veterans Home and the VA Medical Center Veterans Olympics shooting program.

The dedication of the fire department reaches organizations inside and outside the Air National Guard. Here at Gowen Field they conduct monthly CPR refresher courses, and fire extinguisher familiarization, including live flash pan fires, for all base agencies. They set high standards by developing a munitions training program, for mutual-aid fire departments, that is used as a benchmark program for other bases.

"Gowen Field has one of the only Jet-A FAA approved burn pits in the nation. Last year we trained several groups from Klamath Falls and the Idaho Falls Fire Department," said Fire Chief Mattravers. "Our full-time employees are responsible for inspecting 238 Army, Air, State of Idaho, Marines Corps, and Naval facilities. Our inspection program includes fire extinguisher maintenance for all Army and Air Guard extinguishers throughout the State of Idaho including 26 off site armories and an off-site tank training range."

Because of the close proximity, the fire department assists the Idaho State Correctional Facility's emergency response team by filling their self-contained breathing apparatus bottles. They also work with United Water Corporation to conduct annual hydrant flow tests and maintenance.

"The fire department is an ever evolving animal; our training and certification requirements have evolved from simply fighting fires in 1975 to nationally certified training program in 2010," Fire Chief Mattravers said. "We began as an all volunteer, traditional force and grown to 16 full time 24/7 State of Idaho EMT licensed personnel."

It's not all business at the fire department; they manage to do good while having fun too. Members participate in many local charity events including the Race to Robie Creek, a half marathon that raises money for local charities, and Fill the Boot for muscular dystrophy f or which they raised $20,000.

Every Christmas the Fire Department becomes the hub for the annual VA Hospital Gift drive. They receive, organize, load, and deliver gifts to Veterans at the Idaho State Veterans Home. This past year they raised so much money that they were able to purchase gifts for homeless Veterans at the Boise Rescue Mission as well.

In an effort to battle drunk driving and safeguard fellow airmen and soldiers, several firefighters created a DUI Prevention program on base which uses donations and local cab companies to provide free "last-resort" cab rides to all soldiers and airmen at Gowen Field.

These are just the highlights of the ever growing list of accomplishments the Fire Department and the firefighters have achieved.

"A group of ordinary personnel doing an extraordinary job," said Fire Chief Mattravers.

They show no signs of letting up with another Fill the Boot event on Aug. 20. The Fire Department and the Marksmanship Team will also be hosting the Veterans Olympics shooting program Sept. 8.