DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The International Association of Fire Fighters says more than 20 percent of firefighters and medics nationwide are actually military veterans.
And some of those veterans are working at local fire departments, too.
“We try to train our recruits that it is combat, we call it combat ready, of being able to withstand the physical and mental aspects of going out and fighting fire,” said Reginald Villines, a training captain with the Durham Fire Department.
Training for combat is something that military veterans from all different branches are used to, but also something firefighter recruits learn. It’s just one similarity between the armed forces and the fire service.
“Both of them have a chain of command, a structure that you follow, even our recruit academy is somewhat similar to a military boot camp,” said Captain Villines.
Villines is a veteran himself. He served for eight years in the United States Marine Corps before becoming a training captain with the Durham Fire Department. and he’s not alone.
In this training cycle alone, five new recruits within the Durham Fire Department are veterans.
“We have them from all over, the Air Force, Coast Guard, all branches,” Villines explained.
He says these men and women are used to risking their lives to protect others, and they now carry their training from the armed services with them to protect the city of Durham.
When asked what he’s learned in the armed forces that he now uses in the fire service, Villines said, “To go beyond, think of others before yourself, that when things get tough, you actually have more there than what you think you do.”
The Durham Fire Department also recently created a veteran support group within the department to specifically address mental health concerns among veterans. They say the group is brand new but so far, the veteran firefighters are thankful for it.