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Arctic Guardian chosen as Air National Guard's top military firefighter

  • Published
  • By David Bedard
  • 176th Wing Public Affairs

The National Guard Bureau recognized a 176th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter as the 2021 National Guard military firefighter of the year.

Master Sgt. Tyler Larimer, 176th CES chief of training, said Alaska Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Brenden Turney, 176th CES firefighter and station captain, earned the award because he embodies the image of a well-rounded firefighter.

“The things that go into the award very much reflect our career field,” Larimer said. “We have many aspects to our job, which includes operations, administration, training and readiness. All of those things have to tie together to make us successful as a department. The reason we put Turney up for this award is because he really does show exemplary performance in all four categories.”

Turney, a native of Anchorage, said he earned the award serving as a traditional part-time Guardsman working as a firefighter who is trained to respond to everything from a kitchen fire to an airplane crash.

“In military firefighting, we do it all,” he said. “We go through Fire Fighter I and II [instruction], which comprises the fundamentals of structural firefighting and general firefighting, and then we earn our ARFF certification, which stands for airport rescue firefighting, that specifically applies to firefighting techniques for airframes.”

Turney said airfield firefighting is especially exciting and challenging because of the unique nature of tactical aircraft.

“You’re dealing with some extreme hazards,” he said. “There’s fuel involved. There’s munitions involved. You’re working to protect people who are in serious danger – a danger that can develop very rapidly. There are no simple answers on how to perform a rescue here.”

Another aspect that makes Turney a well-rounded firefighter, Larimer said, is his many different experiences working with other departments in Alaska’s civil sector as well as military departments overseas.

“Every department has its own culture,” he said. “Each location has its own unique responses, its own unique hazards, and they have unique tools to respond to what they have in their jurisdiction. I get to experience different versions of this job, which enables me to have a bigger toolset and to be able to teach more, do more and to have different options when responding to a real emergency.”

Larimer said Turney also earned high marks for his leadership, a notion echoed by the young noncommissioned officer.

“My job, especially as a new supervisor and NCO is to lead my crew and take care of their needs,” he said. “My job is to be an expert in the field, and to find every way I can to apply what I have learned to support the mission.”

As well-received as the award is, Turney said the ultimate prize lies at the end of his pursuit of a full-time firefighter job. Though curiosity of military service brought him to the Air National Guard, his ultimate goal is to join a fire department.

“I wanted to serve,” Turney said. “I am very curious about experiences, and the only way to satisfy those curiosities is to experience them.”

He said his goal really came into focus after earning his Emergency Medical Technician qualification at a local university[ASB1] [ASB2] .

“From there, it was a matter of figuring out how to put this skill to work,” he said. “I looked at local volunteer opportunities. I applied with the local fire department. It didn’t all work out right away, but I really wanted to pursue this.”

Fortunately, a friend told Turney he could get the training and experience he was looking for in the National Guard.

“It’s unique in that you are fully supported while you pursue the training,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about anything else; you are 100 percent focused.”

Larimer said, since Turney joined the 176th CES, he has gone after every available deployment and temporary duty assignment, including a six-month stint with the JBER Fire Department. Additionally, Turney volunteers with the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, which performs high-angle rescues throughout the Alaska back country.

Turney said, though he wasn’t seeking recognition, he was pleased to get the nod as top military firefighter.

“I don’t pursue awards like this intentionally, but I see it as a gauge that I’m doing my job well, because everyone wants to feel like they’re doing good work,” he said.