My Military, Firefighting & Locksmithing"Careers"

USAF Fire Department Badge
maltese cross picture USAF Fallen FireFighter Patch

I entered the U.S. Air Force in 1977. I did my basic training at Lackland AFB, in San Antonio, Texas, from September until November of that year.  I was transferred to Chanute AFB in Rantoul, Illinois, where I spent the winter months and trained as a Fire Fighter.   Once my fire fighting training was complete I was stationed in Florida, at Homestead AFB and shipped all around on TDY's (temporary duty assignments), to work on structural and crash crews.  More about Homestead AFB and the 31st TAC can be found below.

Shortly after my reenlistment, while my crew was reporting to a "smoke in the cockpit" call, I got hurt.  I ended up having two back surgeries, which got me walking again, but left me with constant pain in my left leg and a left side drop foot.  I received an Honorable Discharge with medical condition.

Homestead AFB 1979(?)    US Air Force FireProtection Specialists     Subbing in Houston 2003(?)

I was originally rated as a 20% Disabled Vet. About two years later it went to 40%. Two or three years after that it was increased to 60% where it stayed until January of 2003, when I was finally given a 100% combined rating disability based on individual unemployability.

During the years after my discharge I would join local fire departments, in whatever town I lived in, if it had one, including Dobson, NC and Round Rock VFD in Round Rock, Texas, where I rose to the rank of Captain, filling in for the Chief and Assistant Chief on a regular basis, as one was always MIA due to his own back disability and the other lived so far outside the response area that he couldn't make it to 3/4 of the alarms.  I also continued my fire sciences education and schooling, enabling me to become the Training Officer for Thrall VFD and an annual Guest Instructor for Texas A&M University's Extension Services Fire Training School since 2006.

Soon after leaving the RRVFD I was asked to be the Chief of a local volunteer corporate responder organization.  This department did fire company responses, like medical and EMT work, for the local Roller Derby, adult co-ed soccer teams and Pop Warner youth football.  I also continue to keep up my EMT certificate, although I am no longer a military, field or para medic.  I also continue to renew my CPR Instructor certs.

Along with fighting fires and teaching, I mastered the art of locksmithing and ran a very successful Lock & Key business for a number of years, employing as many as five workers at times.  I've since sold the business, gone on disability and given away most of my equipment.  Although, I still keep a key cutting machine and a Curtis Clippers for old times' sake.  I've also gone back to school throughout the years, for various degrees and certificates, including a BSW in Social Work and Masters in Religion, a HazMat Tech certificate, and I am an AHA CPR & !st Aid Instructor through Austin/Travis EMS.  I was "ordained" as a Rabbi by the UL, so I can perform marriages and conduct funerals and the like and I'm usually spending my free time back in school, padding my resumes with things I will probably never use. Just recently I was enrolled in a sign language interpreter class and more recently, a horsemanship apprentice class.

More about USAF Firefighters can be found here.  About locksmithing, here.  A tribute to the memory of the fallen on 9-11-01 can be found here.

 

The History of the Maltese Cross that Fire Fighters Wear

The insignia of the fire service is the Cross Pattee-Nowy, otherwise known as the Maltese Cross.

The armored, mounted warriors, The Knights of St. John, revolutionized warfare. For more than six centuries the medieval Knights dominated the battlefields. At first, the church attempted to tame them, but later enlisted them to help with the first crusade of 1095. The Knights received status that became the envy of kings, princes and princesses. They were the first firefighters and the first paramedics - at least the first organized group.

The need for an identifiable emblem for the Knights had become crucial. Because of the extensive armor which covered their bodies and faces, the Knights were unable to distinguish friend from foe in battle.

Many of the Knights became firefighters out of necessity, as well. Their enemies had resorted to throwing glass bombs containing naphtha and flaming oil into their numbers. Many of them were called on to rescue their fellow Knights and extinguish the fires.

The Knights of St. John eventually moved to the Island of Malta, The island for which the Maltese Cross was named.  The cross represents the fire service ideals of saving lives and extinguishing fires. But it also represents the unselfish public service dedication to man and environment and the inherent qualities that fire departments and public safety personnel around the world hold such as: charity, loyalty, chivalry, honesty, integrity, honor, pride, dedication, selflessness, discipline, protection, ethics and dignity.


St. Florian, the Patron Saint of Firefighters

Florian was a third century officer in the Roman army stationed in what is now modern Austria.  He was the military administrator of the town of Noricum, and a closet Christian. Florian once stopped an entire town from burning by throwing a single bucket of water on the blaze, and thus his association with firefighters and those who protect us from fire.

When ordered to execute a group of Christians during the persecutions of Diocletian, Florian refused, professed his own faith and died a martyr in 304 a.d.  He was flayed alive, a stone was tied to his neck, and his body was dumped into a river.  Later, Florian's body was retrieved by Christians and buried at an Augustinian monastery.

St. Florian's day of memorial is May 4th.


Airman's Creed

I am an American Airman.
I am a warrior.
I have answered my Nation's call.

I am an American Airman.
My mission is to fly, fight, and win.
I am faithful to a proud heritage;
A tradition of Honor;
And a legacy of valor.

I am an American Airman.
Guardian of Freedom and Justice.
My Nation's sword and shield;
Its sentry and avenger.
I defend my Country with my life.

I am an American Airman.
Wingman, leader, warrior.
I will never leave an Airman behind.
I will never falter;
And I will not fail.


Air Force Core Values:

Integrity First
Service Before Self
Excellence in All We Do.

31st Tactical Air Command and Homestead AFB

My permanent duty station, when not on TDY or "Bug-Outs" was Homestead AFB, in Homestead, Florida, home of the 31st Tactical Air Command.  The following is a little history of The 31st and HAFB.

Homestead AFB is located in southern Dade County, Florida, approximately 25 miles south of Miami, two miles west of Biscayne National Park and five miles east of the Everglades and Everglades National Park. Before The 31st left, the Base covered approximately 2,900 acres.

In 2003, Homestead AFB was reassigned Homestead Air Reserve Station and was officially aligned as an Air Reserve Base.  The new ARB comprises 1,943 acres, which includes the runway and main taxi ways. The Florida Air National Guard, US Customs Service, Job Corps Training Center and a few other small groups obtained small parcels of the former Homestead AFB. The remainder of the former HAFB has been transferred to Dade County for redevelopment.

In 1962 The 31st Tactical Fighter Wing, a fighter unit with a history dating back to 1940, was moved from George AFB, California, to Homestead, in response to the growing Communist threat from Cuba. In October, 1962, it was discovered that the Soviet Union was placing medium range missiles on the island, giving it an unprecedented offensive capability.

Troops and aircraft were rushed to Homestead. The 31st TFW, along with two other tactical fighter wings, identified targets in Cuba and were prepared to strike at a moment's notice. Homestead AFB was on the leading edge of the brink of war.

After several weeks of tension, the Soviets backed down, the missiles were removed, the crisis was over, but many of the changes to HAFB, which spawned by the threat, remained. HAFB was now the main rally point to send air power around the globe and sustain an operationally ready Tactical Air Force.

With the presence of the 31st TFW, the role of the Tactical Air Command at Homestead AFB increased rapidly throughout the 1960s. In late 1966, the 31st TFW was deployed to Tuy Hoa AB, Republic of Vietnam. Two years later, on July 1, 1968, TAC officially took control of HAFB. In 1970, the 31st TFW returned from Southeast Asia and once again became the host unit for Homestead Air Force Base's Tactical Air Command.

In 1981 the 31st TFW and Homestead AFB took on a new task: training F-4 aircrews. On March 31, 1981, the 31st TFW became the 31st Tactical Training Wing. In October, 1985, when the first F-16 arrived, the 31st TTW reverted back to its designation of the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing.

In the early hours of August 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew roared ashore at Homestead AFB. The base was ground zero for the powerful, category 4 storm, (recently re-classified as a category 5 storm) which virtually destroyed the base.

On Sept 2, 1992, President George H. Bush and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney visited the base. Most military members returned to the base only to gather what belongings had been spared before continuing on to new duty assignments. 23,000 airmen and soldiers from various military units across the US, operated out of tents, on and off the base, providing around the clock law enforcement, security, humanitarian and the manpower needed for rebuilding both the base and the community.

The DOD spent $100 million for new construction and infrastructure improvements to preserve Homestead AFB as a strategic defense asset. Demolition of unusable buildings and repair of base infrastructure continued. Re-constructing the FANG hangar, ATC Tower and maintenance hangers were the priority. Within three years after the hurricane, the base had a brand new Wing Headquarters, Vehicle Maintenance building, Communications Center, Medical buildings, and Security building.

An Air Force Ball was held on March 5, 1994. The event hailed the arrival of the 482nd FW from MacDill AFB and its new role as the predominant unit at the new Homestead Air Reserve Base. But it was also bid farewell to the 31st TFW. The 31st TFW left Homestead AFB for the last time and was reactivated at Aviano AB, in Italy.

 

Map of Homestead, FL & surrounding area
Map of Homestead and surrounding area,
including the proximity of the Everglades,
Keys Biscayne and Largo,
and the lock shop I owned in Kendall,
across from the house I lived in.

 

 
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