Arctic Guardian is National Guard’s top Military Firefighter

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

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – 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 Guard member working as a firefighter 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 Firefighter 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 challenging.

“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 experiences working with other departments in Alaska’s civil sector and 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 tool set 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.”

Though curiosity about military service brought him to the Air National Guard, his ultimate goal is to join a fire department.

He said his goal came into focus after he earned his emergency medical technician qualification at a local university.

“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.”