Military News

Monday, March 16, 2015

627th CES Airman wins IMCOM firefighter award

by Alexandra Kocik
Northwest Guardian

3/16/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD,Wash. -- A Joint Base Lewis-McChord firefighter was chosen as one of nine for the Department of Defense Fire and Emergency Service Awards.

Airman 1st Class James Salazar of the 627th Civil Engineer Squadron was selected as the 2014 military firefighter to receive the IMCOM Fire and Emergency Service Award. Salazar is the third consecutive Air Force firefighter from JBLM to win the Army Major Command's award.

The award is open to all branches of service from joint installations. Salazar and the other competitors are judged based on their volunteerism, training and overall job experience.

The former commercial fisherman from Forks, Wash. said he was looking for a change when a family member encouraged him to join the Air Force.

"My brother's in the Army, so he had interactions with Airmen and knew what it was like on both sides from spending time on Air Force bases," he said. "It seemed like the best fit."

Salazar said he feels lucky to be stationed close to home at JBLM. He said he is also thankful to his superior officers for their support during his time here.

Staff Sergeant Sergio Villela, NCOIC of health and safety at the fire department and Salazar's supervisor helped put together the application package. Villela said Salazar always pushes himself to the next level when learning new skills in the job.

"He's a smart kid off the bat, but he definitely puts in the time and effort," he said. "It stands out to me and others in the department."

He also puts in a lot of time doing volunteer work.

"A lot of the time it's difficult to get the younger members to do volunteer work, but it's something he likes to do," he said. "This reflection of the whole person concept is why he was selected both in firefighting and the Air Force."

These qualities also led to Salazar's nomination for 2014 Airman of the Year. Although he did not win, he was selected for below-the-zone promotion to senior Airman six months before the usual three years to earn the rank.

Salazar said his work ethic helped him achieve what he has so far.

"Work hard and strive to be the best and always stand out," he said. "Do your work and always continue your education. If you feel comfortable in this job, there is a lot more for you to work on and learn."

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