WASHINGTON – If there’s another organization that takes the training of its recruits as seriously as the U.S. Army, it just might be the Fire Department of New York. So it’s no surprise that the Drill Sergeant Academy at Fort Jackson, the premier training academy in the Army, has a collaboration with the New York Fire Academy, the training program of the largest and busiest fire department in the world.
The relationship began as the result of an elevator conversation between former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and New York City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro. FDNY maintains a uniformed force equal roughly to the Indiana Army National Guard, all compressed into about 468 square miles. Training challenges can be enormous and have been likened to those of the United States Army.
“They were discussing some of the training dilemmas they had, which went from that elevator conversation to TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command); from TRADOC to IMT (Initial Military Training); and from IMT to the Drill Sergeant Academy,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Christian, then the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy commandant.
Christian, along with two of his drill sergeant leaders, Sgt. 1st Class Tanya Green and Staff Sgt. Autumn Beaty, traveled to the Fire Academy earlier this year for a closer look at training in the Probationary Firefighter School.
“From my experience, the product that the Probationary Firefighter School turns out is second to none, but that’s not to say we can’t get better,” said Lt. J.P. Augier, executive officer to the FDNY chief of training. “The Drill Sergeant Academy is here helping us do that…. The Army has been doing this for a lot longer than us, and so, by having this exchange, it has helped save us some growing pains.”
Army Reserve Sgt. Maj. Edward Roderiques, deputy commandant of the Drill Sergeant Academy, said the Army has provided the New York Fire Academy with “a plethora of information training, reception and integration, in terms of when new students arrive, how they are received and integrated into the course.”
Leaders from the two programs have made several reciprocal visits to observe and trade best practices- and to try out each other’s programs firsthand.
“Five of their drill instructors attended the Army Master Fitness Trainer course,” Roderiques said. “They knocked it out of the park.”
While the relationship between the Drill Sergeant Academy and the FDNY is less than two years old, Columbia, South Carolina, where Fort Jackson is located, actually has a connection with the FDNY that goes back to Civil War days. According to an article in The State newspaper, Columbia was decimated by a fire in 1865, and even though there was still tremendous animosity between the North and South, New York City firefighters raised the funds for a horse-drawn pumper for Columbia. When the barge on which it was shipped sank in a storm, they raised $2,500 to send another one and delivered it to Columbia on June 28,1867.
Delighted with the gift, the city’s fire chief said their generosity would never be forgotten. Another resident, former Confederate Col. Samuel Melton, told the New Yorkers that “should misfortune ever be yours,” he hoped Columbia would “obey that golden rule by which you have been prompted in the performance of this most munificent kindness to a people in distress.”
Columbia definitely did not forget. After the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, middle school children in Columbia started a drive to raise funds for a fire engine for New York. The story was picked up around the world, and donations poured in. According to The State, the student-led effort raised $540,000 in less than three months, enough money to replace Ladder 101, one of the first engines to respond to the World Trade Center. All seven firefighters from the Red Hook Raiders fire company in Brooklyn were killed.
The ladder engine remained in operation for 10 years, carrying the names of the seven firefighters from the engine company who lost their lives, the South Carolina flag and a plaque that said: “This apparatus donated by the White Knoll Middle School and the citizens of Columbia, S.C.” – P.C. k
Editor’s note: This article was supplemented with information from an article written by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton and an article by Jeff Wilkinson of The State newspaper.