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NEWS | Sept. 11, 2009

Deployed firefighters, Soldiers remember 9/11

By Staff Sgt. Jeff Lowry Indiana National Guard

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq, - More than 340 New York City firefighters died on Sept. 11, 2001. Task Force 38 Citizen-Soldiers, who are firefighters back home, remember that day vividly.

"I think about it all the time," said Chief Warrant Officer Dexter Lawless, a Task Force 38 tactical operations officer and an Indianapolis firefighter. "Many Americans have said that replays of the planes flying into the buildings shouldn't be shown, that it's too traumatic, but I think it should be shown weekly or daily to show that it can happen again. Some Americans have become complacent.

"I think people should stay [mad] that terrorists flew our own planes into the World Trade Center for their twisted cause."

Staff Sgt. Ian Marano, a Task Force 38 flight medic and an Indianapolis firefighter with the department's search and rescue team, was in New York to help with the relief efforts the day after the attacks.

"I remember all the smoke; there was so much fire and so much dust," he said. "We had to wear respirators all the time; it was like living next to a volcano."

Marano carries a vial of the debris as a reminder.

Another Indianapolis firefighter and Task Force 38 master gunner, Chief Warrant Officer Chris Bertrand, was in Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Spring at the time of the attacks.

"We were watching it about 200 miles south of here and watching them come down I said, 'There goes about 400 firemen,'" Bertrand said sadly. "You knew that there were firemen in there."

While the firefighters remember that day, they are now here to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. The teamwork they showed for their fellow firefighters back home, they now show for their fellow Soldiers.

"The brotherhood, the camaraderie is second to none," said Marano of being a firefighter. "The National Guard has the same feel. You do what you do for the person next to you."

Another Task Force 38 Soldier and an Antrim, Ohio volunteer firefighter, Sgt 1st Class Rich Lane agreed regarding the espirit de corps of Soldiers and firefighters.

"You're trusting the Soldier next to you," said the quality control manager with Company D, 1st Battalion, 137th Assault Helicopter Battalion comparing his two roles. "If you go into a burning building you got to trust the person next to you as well."

Indianapolis firefighter and the task force's assistant operations officer, Maj. Kevan Crawley of Greenwood, Ind., reiterated that teamwork aspect of both jobs.

"You got a group of people living together and working together," he said. "You're all going the same direction."

Besides the camaraderie, brotherhood and teamwork aspects of the two jobs, the firefighters agreed that there's kinship between the two professions with rank structure and chain of command.

All of the firefighters were in the military prior to joining a fire department, and they attributed their civilian hiring to their military experience.

However, benefits of the dual careers enhance each other and Lane applies his firefighter skills he learned to his military mission, one of which is his role as a combat life saver.

"I bring a lot of that training into the Guard," he said. "I think a lot of the training goes hand-in-hand." He applied his paramedic training by teaching his fellow Soldiers some of those civilian-learned skills on drill weekends.

Bertrand and Crawley said there are other undeniable similarities.

"There's always something that could go wrong [in both jobs]," said Bertrand. "There's continuous learning curve, every time you go to a fire, every time you go to fly ."

Crawley agreed. "Risk decisions are made quickly and efficiently [in firefighting and aviation]," he said. "No missions fail."