DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- In an overhang just off to the side of the flight line, there’s a row of fire trucks hiding in the shade. The fire station behind them belongs to the 919th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron's “fire dawgs.”
In the 1700’s, dogs were trained to chase fire carriages to clear a path and protect the carriage at the scene of a fire. This combined with the bulldog mascot for the Department of Defense Fire Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base helped the nickname stick.
“When other people are running from a burning building, we’ll be running in,” said Staff Sgt. Addias Tolliver, a driver operator for the 919 SOCES fire services flight. “We took the firefighter’s creed and we live by it.”
The mission of 919 SOCES fire dawgs is to train for wartime deployments. The 919th Special Operations Wing firefighters mainly train at Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base. They sometimes have unit training assemblies known as “burn weekends,” where they artificially ignite a prop aircraft and work together to put it out. They also simulate situations, hold discussions and practice medical scenario walkthroughs.
“The 919th SOW fire flight exists to train and deploy with a focus on wartime fighting,” said Chief Master Sgt. David Sidley, 919 SOCES fire chief and deputy fire chief for the City of Crestview. “We are a plug-and-play fire department that can provide fire and emergency services to anyone, anywhere.”
Some of the 919 SOCES fire dawgs also work at local fire stations in a civilian capacity. A portion also work for emergency medical services and as civil service in their communities. Firefighters can take the training and experience from their military and civilian careers to mutually benefit both.
“The leadership, professionalism, and work ethics developed in the military will carry over into whatever occupation you have,” said Sidley. “A successful military firefighter is likely to be successful no matter where they work.”
Tolliver heard the calling to become a “fire dawg” and joined the U.S. Air Force as a full-time firefighter in 2011. He then transferred into the Air Force Reserve as a firefighter in 2017. One month later, his local fire department hired him.
“I love the action, camaraderie and sacrifice of being a firefighter,” said Tolliver. “Some days get tougher than others, but your brothers and sisters will be right there to pick you back up. The rewards for this job are top-notch.”
The exchange between military and civilian experiences is part of many Citizen Air Commandos’ careers that benefit local communities and the 919 SOW.
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