JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- The 87th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department won the 2018 Department of Defense Annual Fire and Emergency Services Award for being the best large fire department.
This award is given to departments with outstanding contributions to the installation, ensuring its community has a safe place to live on top of 24 hour work days putting their lives on the line. The department supports the entirety of Joint Base MDL to include four airfields, 85 tenant units, 65 square miles and $21 billion in assets.
“The leadership of our organization supports the overall drive of the department which encourages the commitment of our guys,” said Gary Laird, 87th CES fire chief. “The teamwork that comes from that allows us to excel and show what our mission is.”
The award proves the department has surpassed the standard held by their mission statement of dedication to providing the highest quality service to protect the lives, property, environment or community through fire prevention and protection, fire suppression rescue, emergency medical services and hazardous material response capabilities.
“This is a really big deal and if you have seen this team operate, you know this honor is well deserved,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Neil Richardson, Joint Base MDL and 87th Air Base Wing commander. “We couldn’t be in better hands.”
Joint Base MDL is very unique, as it is the only tri-service installation in the United States containing three commands and housing all five services in the DoD. This means the department has three different missions to protect; Air Force, Army and Navy. Along with the three service missions, they have about 85 tenant organizations that are assigned to the base, all having their own unique challenges.
Conquering each challenge presented to the fire teams is not an easy task. The organization must consistently keep up with training and is constantly looking for better ways to improve.
Since the joining of the tri-service base in 2009, the department has been under constant change. Unit-specific missions clashing to form one overall mission, multiple departments of different services merging together and improving the processes and procedures of handling fire calls.
“I think everybody here is always looking for how they can improve themselves or help the organization they are with and that helps guide the direction that we are going in,” said Laird. “None of us individually could do this, everything that we do is a team effort. When I started in 2002, we were blessed with very good leadership that has allowed us to grow and I think it continues to this day.”