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Wyoming first sergeant leverages first responder skills

Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Turner is a firefighter with Cheyenne Fire Rescue. During the week, he responds to fire calls and provides emergency medical assistance to the city’s residents. On drill weekend, he responds to the needs of the airmen and families of the 153rd Airlift Wing as a first sergeant.
“When I was growing up, I always wanted to become a firefighter,” said Turner. “I like helping people so becoming a first sergeant was a natural fit.”

Turner began his career in the Wyoming Air National Guard as a C-130H engine mechanic. Four years later, he applied to change careers to become a firefighter. He attended the fire academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, in 2001, prior to September 11.

After witnessing the selfless acts of first responders during the collapse of the Twin Towers, Turner affirmed his decision to pursue his dream job as a firefighter.

He remembered watching the televised images of first responders attending to the injuries of the people in New York and was reminded of a woman he helped while he was driving down a dirt road in 2000. She was badly injured from a robbery that occurred in Cheyenne and was left bleeding in her vehicle when Turner stopped to render aid and drive her to the hospital.

“The feeling I had that night and watching those first responders on 9/11 really helped solidify my decision to help people and become a firefighter,” said Turner.
Although he became a firefighter with the Air National Guard, it was still only one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. Turner worked various jobs as a server, retail clerk and with the railroad before accepting a full-time position with Cheyenne Fire Rescue.

After being hired by the city, Turner attended firefighter training at the Front Range Fire Consortium Fire Recruit Academy in 2007. Since then, he has performed duties as acting lieutenant, taken on additional duties as part of CFR’s public relations committee and assisted with community fundraising projects.

“Tom supports the department in many ways thanks to his experiences in the military,” said Lt. Jarrett Demello, Cheyenne Fire Rescue lieutenant of operations. “He is always reliable and willing to help any-one who needs him.”

Although Tuner was now a first responder with his civilian employer and with the Wyoming Air National Guard, he wanted to help airmen more than just as a firefighter.
He was approached in 2010 by Senior Master Sgt. Sarah Brewster, 153rd Airlift Wing human resource advisor, who, at the time, was a first sergeant. She encouraged him to apply his first responder skills as a first sergeant.

“You care about people and take pride in helping others,” said Brewster. “So, put a diamond on and let your airmen be your priority.”

Turner finished the First Sergeant Academy in 2010 and was assigned as the first sergeant for the 153rd Logistics Readiness Squadron. As the needs of the wing changed, he became the first sergeant for the 153rd Security Forces Squadron and, finally, the wing staff.

Although Turner will be retiring his first sergeant diamond in December after 20 years with the Wyoming Air National Guard, he will still be a city firefighter responding to the needs of the residents of Cheyenne.