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NEWS | Jan. 24, 2020

Airman by day, volunteer firefighter by night

By Staff Sgt. Christian Sullivan Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Service members from across the DoD look for fulfilling and sometimes unique volunteer opportunities and often make a difference in their communities.

That is precisely what 1st Lt. Joshua Heffley, 437th Maintenance Group executive officer, does as a volunteer firefighter for the Goose Creek Rural Fire Department, in Goose Creek, South Carolina.

“Here I do everything a regular firefighter does, except I don’t get paid for it, it’s strictly volunteer,” said Heffley. “We do a myriad of things here, whether it’s training on how to attack a full-blown structure fire, or how to properly extricate an individual after a car wreck.”

Although he’s only been at this fire department for two years, Heffley said this isn’t his first experience with volunteer firefighting.

“It started right after I got of high school, it seemed like the thing to do,” said Heffley. “I like to help people, and I love the drive and passion firefighters have.”

Although he already serves his country being active duty Air Force, Heffley said he gets a different feeling from being a volunteer in the community.

“There’s definitely a sense of satisfaction,” said Heffley. “Whether or not people are involved and you saved a life or you saved property, you saved something that meant a lot to someone.”

Heffley isn’t the first military member to volunteer at the department and probably won’t be the last, said GCRFD fire chief Bob Maibach. Maibach has been the chief at GCRFD for five years while being involved in other fire departments for nearly 40 years.

“This department has a long history of military participation predating my time here,” said Maibach. “Many of our current members are either active, reserve or retired military.”

After being a volunteer firefighter for so long Heffley has experienced many memorable moments, but one sticks out at this department, Thanksgiving of 2018 is one that comes to mind for him.

“We have two stations we run out of,” said Heffley. “I ended up on a fire with three or four guys from Station 2 and we went to put it out. It was just one of those situations where we all got the job done together like we’re supposed to.”

Going from working on the flightline as an Air Force maintenance officer to putting out fires with a community firefighter team, Heffley said there are some types of growing pains when it comes to juggling both environments.

“It takes a little getting used to, because you have to put on a different hat,” said Heffley. “You not only have to get used to the different [environments], but also the assortment of different ranks within the fire department. You just have to be humble enough to build off each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

With Joint Base Charleston members making up such a large portion of the local community, Maibach said he hopes to get more involved in the volunteer program.

“The relationship with our community and the military is significant,” said Maibach. “We’re hoping to engage more military folks in the organization and not just to fight fire. This is a 24-hour function and we’re always looking for people that want to be involved.”