Firefighter in front og US Air Force fire truck.

Photo by Senior Airman Amber Mullen 178th Wing Public Affairs

A firefighter assigned to the 178th Civil Engineer Squadron practices putting out an aircraft fire Aug. 13, 2019, at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena, Mich. Due to mission needs during the COVID-19 pandemic this year, several of the wing’s firefighters have performed additional duty by helping staff the wing’s emergency operations center.

178th Wing Fire Emergency Services Airmen step up during COVID-19 pandemic

Story by Staff Sgt. Zachary Tateman, 178th Wing Public Affairs

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (10/22/20)

Several 178th Wing Fire Emergency Services members have been balancing their full-time duties at the base with providing staffing support to the wing’s emergency operations center during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency operations center, or EOC, acts as an information hub during local, state or national emergencies. It also provides a standardized framework for interagency communication.

“The information that flows in and out of the EOC is translated and directed to the appropriate agency,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Keck, an assistant fire chief with the 178th Wing and an EOC manager. “This way, there is high-level accountability for not only the taskings and requests for information we receive from higher headquarters, but also for our members out in the field.”

Keck, along with Master Sgt. Erik Roddy, the 178th Wing installation fire chief, and Tech. Sgt. Kevin McNamara, a firefighter with the 178th Wing, are among the several fire emergency services Airmen to fill the role as EOC manager during this crisis.

“The fire department provides me a unique skill set that allowed me to jump into this manager role without hesitation,” McNamara said.

Fulfilling the EOC manager role can be time consuming, especially when trying to balance a full-time job on top of it. However, this is nothing new to the Citizen-Airmen of the Ohio Air National Guard.

“Time management and the ability to change gears rapidly and without warning are skills that I have been forced to improve on,” Keck said. “There have been many long days, long weekends and extra hours worked, but the mission must continue. We are fortunate to have several volunteer EOC managers to help distribute the load.”

During a global pandemic, there is no time to waste when it comes to making sure vital programs, such as the EOC, continue to gather and distribute data, information and taskings.

“As a member of the civil (engineer) squadron, I felt obligated to help this program succeed,” Roddy said. “With my emergency response background and training, it only made sense to step up and help make this program run efficiently and effectively.”