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174th Attack Wing Fire Department named best in the Air National Guard

  • Published
  • By Mr. Alexander Rector
  • 174th Attack Wing

HANCOCK FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, NY -- The Hancock Field Air National Guard Base Fire Department here was named the Chief Greg O. Winjum Fire Department of the Year for 2022 by the Air National Guard Fire Chief’s Association.

The department, which is comprised of a mix of uniformed airmen from the 174th Attack Wing and civilian firefighters, was recognized for their outstanding performance while providing 24/7 fire protective services for Hancock Field Air National Guard Base and the co-located Syracuse-Hancock International Airport.

“The award is for the small fire department of the year which is based on having under 50 firefighters both uniformed and civilian,” said Jeffrey Chrissley, the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base Fire Department Chief. “The winners are selected by an impartial panel of base fire marshals.”

“We are extremely proud of our military and civilian firefighters for the incredible service they provide and the work they’ve done to be selected for this prestigious award,” said Col. John O’Connor, the 174th Attack Wing commander. “These professionals truly represent what the Air National Guard brings to our community.”

The department, which began full time operations during the Covid-19 pandemic, consists of 27 uniformed Air National Guard fire protection specialists and 22 full-time civilian firefighters.

“There are two separate leadership teams, one for the military firefighters and then one for the full-time firefighters,” said Chrissley, who retired from the 174th Attack Wing after 38 years of service. “But we work together as one department. We don't differentiate between how we train or how we work.”

During the awards selection process, the department was assessed on several different categories such as department management, operations, training, fire prevention, and community relations.

“Our operations have really increased,” said Chrissley. “When we were just on the base doing responses, we were lucky if we even did 100 calls a year when we were full-time. Now we're approaching over 400 calls between the base and the airport. So, we've really increased our response or our call volume.”

In addition to emergency response, the fire department supervises numerous fire prevention programs by conducting building inspections, issuing welding permits for construction projects and overseeing the airport’s fuel storage program.

“We've got 46 plus facilities on base, and we do all the plans reviews for civil engineering,” said Chrissley. “Any new building construction or even projects that are coming up are involved in all the planning.”

Though the department now provides fire protection services for both the air base and the civilian airport, up until 2021 the Syracuse City Fire Department served as the airport’s fire service provider.

After the Hancock Field Fire Department returned to full-time operations in 2021 to support its military mission, the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority reached out to the 174th Attack Wing and inquired about the unit’s fire department providing the fire protection services for the airport.

“Through meetings with leadership we decided that it would be a good thing to do all the way around for both the base and the airport,” said Chrissley. “We entered into a memorandum of agreement with the airport that we would provide our fire and EMS services to the airport authority, and we've been doing that for about a year and a half now.”

Once the decision was made to take on the increased responsibility, the task then turned to hiring the needed personnel.

“People came from all over and we had the support of state headquarters to get the positions filled in a timely manner,” said Chrissley. “We even had a guy come from Spain. I remember picking them up at the airport.”

“Rebuilding our full-time fire department from scratch, fully integrating it with our part-time military staff, and assuming full responsibility for Fire and Emergency Services for both Hancock Field Air National Guard Base and the Syracuse-Hancock International Airport in such a short period took a herculean effort,” said O’Connor. 

Hancock Field Air National Guard Base is home the to the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing. The unit operates the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft. More than 500 uniformed and civilian personnel work full time at Hancock Field.