Owen Proctor gets a chance to wear a historical medic helmet while pretending to drive a converted jeep that would have been used to help evacuate battlefield wounded in the mid-1940’s. The jeep was on display during the Fort Jackson Directorate of Emergency Services Open House April 16, 2022. Owen wore his own fire chief uniform to the event where he received the approval of fire fighters, his own child sized fire fighter helmet and fire badge sticker.

Directorate of Emergency Services opens doors to public

By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

Fort Jackson’s Directorate of Emergency Services opened their doors to the installation’s community April 16 to build stronger community relationships with Team Jackson, Soldiers, veterans, retirees and their Families.

We are supporting Month of the Military Child by opening our doors and letting everyone come in and see the fire, police and emergency service vehicles,” said John Hughes III, Fort Jackson’s police chief. “By holding events like this it lets us have a more open one on one forum to interact with the public and build trust.”

Despite pouring rain and cold winds, the vehicles were moved inside the bays that house the fire trucks, allowing visitors the chance to explore the vehicles and equipment while staying dry.

Police cars were parked with their doors open and lights on as children were allowed to explore the interior of the vehicle and have their photos taken by parents. Each child was presented with a sticker in the shape and color of a police badge. While the children enjoyed the stickers, they remained blissfully unaware that they had become part of an undercover battle.

“We’ve got the goods now,” a fire fighter whispered as he stealthily snuck out of a side door. He and his partner in crime had boxes tightly tucked under each arm. They snuck around the tall fire trucks offering children and their parents bright red and blue plastic fire fighter hats. They also gave them stickers in the shape of fire fighter badges.

Parent’s caught on quickly and joined in on the fun. Some parents even asked their children to show opposing forces their badge stickers.

“Obviously we hope none of these children become fire fighters,” Hughes said jokingly. “We hope they all become police. That’s why I make sure everyone I see with a fire hat gets a police badge sticker.”

One child in particular, 5-year-old Kolton Yax, caught Hughes' attention immediately.

“My son is the biggest fan of police,” said Kelly Yax, Kolton’s mom. “As soon as I found out about this, I knew I had to bring him.”

Kolton had several pictures of him taken inside one of the police cruisers as he proudly wore his blue police uniform. Hughes applauded they boy’s uniform before noticing it was missing something, a proper badge. Hughes immediately gifted him a badge sticker and answered all the boy’s questions.

“The turnout was great. The weather doesn’t stop us and we always adapt and overcome,” said Michael Scott, a Fort Jackson firefighter.

“You know, (most of) the kids wanted to come out and play with the trucks because we are cooler than cops,” he grinned. “We hope they turn out to be future fire fighters.”

Scott and his teammates helped children climb in and out of their fire trucks as well as try on bunker gear. Bunker gear is the iconic set of brightly colored and reflective fire retardant pants, jacket and steel toes boots.

He too took notice of certain children who seemed to share his love and passion of the fireman profession. Paul Proctor and Deacon Rhodes, both 3-years-old, attended the event wearing their own fire fighter uniforms. Each received stickers, fire hats and plenty of hands on time inside the fire trucks.

At the end of the day, the rivalry between fire and police is only in jest according to Hughes and Scott.

“We truly have a phenomenal working relationship with our fire department here on Fort Jackson,” Hughes said. “But, we don’t ever miss an opportunity to give each other a little push.”

As the skies began clearing, the event wrapped up. Vehicles returned to their staging areas, ready to answer the call if they are needed. Children and their parents continued their day now knowing a little more about their police, fire fighters and EMS teams who are ‘Always Ready’ to ‘Protect and Serve’ each day.

“It was a great event and we had fun,” Kelly said. “I think this is building the trust we need.”