VFW Honors 445th Airman with Firefighter of Year Award

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ethan Spickler
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2398 recently recognized a 445th Airman and career firefighter for his selfless service in the civilian and military sectors at Fire Station 1 in Columbus, Ohio, in front of his fellow firefighters and leadership.

Master Sgt. Eric Baldridge, 445th Civil Engineer Squadron fire emergency services assistant chief of health and safety, received the Firefighter of the Year Award, Columbus Division of Fire.

“I’ve adopted the ‘service before self’ concept,” said Baldridge, who also works as a firefighter for the City of Columbus. “I’m proud to represent my branch of service, wing and squadron when I put on the uniform. Knowing that an organization which serves veterans is recognizing me for my service and efforts means a lot to me.”

For someone to qualify for this award, they have to demonstrate the experience and dedication to fire service that sets them apart.

When a family friend, who is a member of VFW Post 2398, heard about Baldridge’s experiences, including his recent deployment to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, he decided to recommend him for the award.

Although he was honored by the recognition, Baldridge said he believes that being humble and teachable is the key to doing the job well.

“It’s nice to receive the recognition, but that’s not why we put the uniform on,” said Baldridge, who has served in the Air Force for 28 years. “We put the uniform on because we care about making a difference and keeping people safe.”

Working in emergency services isn’t an easy task. Not only do Airmen in emergency services respond to on-base emergencies, they also may be asked to respond to emergencies in a wide radius outside of the base. It’s a demanding career field. These Airmen take pride in doing their work to the best of their ability no matter the circumstances.

“It’s important to recognize our emergency services and first responders, because it’s a difficult job they do,” said Chief Master Sgt. Chad Lifer, 445th Civil Engineer Squadron fire emergency services fire chief.

“The men and women in this line of work aren’t out for an award,” Lifer continued. “They just want to do their job well, but it’s important to recognize the folks who go above and beyond.”

Airmen from the fire and emergency services career field bring a lot to the table in supporting the wing mission.

Although Baldridge will continue to fight fires on the civilian side, his time in the Air Force is drawing to a close.

As he prepares to retire from the Air Force later this year, he offered advice for Airmen who are looking to make the most of their time while serving.

“Stay humble, because if you are in this for pats on the back, you are in it for the wrong reason,” Baldridge said.

“You have got to keep your heart in this job and what it represents to do it well,” Baldridge added. “That allows you to take full advantage of what the Air Force has to offer.”