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Ireland wins 2021 Fire Chief of the Year award

John Ireland, Grissom fire chief, poses in front of a fire truck at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana, Oct. 13, 2021. Ireland won the Indiana Emergency Responders Conference Fire Chief of the Year award. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Blocker)

John Ireland, Grissom fire chief, poses in front of a fire truck at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana, Oct. 13, 2021. Ireland won the Indiana Emergency Responders Conference Fire Chief of the Year award. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Blocker)

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. --

From extinguishing 75-foot waves of fire to decorating “Grissom Fire” themed Christmas trees at a charity event, John Ireland epitomizes leadership.

Ireland, civilian fire chief of the Grissom Fire Department, received the 2021 Indiana Emergency Responders Conference Fire Chief of the Year award for his outstanding achievements and leadership.

This award recognizes those in Indiana’s Public Safety Organizations whose accomplishments rise above the day to day excellence in training, education, and safety.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Ireland. “I know some of the qualities from the other fire chiefs in the state and to see that I won such a great award is truly humbling.”

Ireland says that it has been a great year for him and the Grissom Fire Department. The department winning the 2020 Chief Master Sergeant Ralph E. Sandborn Award for being the best medium size fire department in the Air Force Reserve Command was another special moment for him.

“This lets us know that the Grissom Fire Department has set the bar high,” he continued. “There is no doubt in my mind that the guys coming up behind me are going to do it even better because these young firefighters are so smart and get such great training.”

The Grissom Fire Department has a very stringent training cycle. Aircraft firefighting, emergency medical service and confined space rescue training are just a small portion of the vast array of training conducted every month.

“We have hundreds of hours of training that we do every year,” the fire chief said. “Each month, we have 15-20 different classes that we put on every shift. It’s a very dedicated training program that we have at the department.”

The fire chief and his team regularly provide training at no cost to his mutual aid partners which saved local volunteers and local fire departments thousands of dollars while increasing their level of response capabilities.

“It’s just great relationships that we have built over the years with our mutual aid partners,” he said. “We go on a run with other departments around the local area and we know each other on a first name basis. Everything just blends.”

While Ireland has a strong working relationship with his mutual aid partners, he also has a professional connection with his Reserve counterparts.

Timothy McMahon, assistant chief of operations, shares his thoughts about Ireland and the impact that he has on the fire department’s mission.

“Over the course of his career, Chief Ireland has always kept the fire department members as his priority,” said McMahon. “His passion lies with his people and this is apparent in the time he dedicates towards fostering a great working environment.”

McMahon says that the one word that best describes Ireland is selfless.

“When the Chief accepted the 2021 IERC Fire Chief of the Year award and the Sandborn award in 2020, his first words from his speech were the same,” McMahon continued. “He thanked the team at the Grissom Fire Department above all else.”

Ireland says that this is the best group of firefighters that he has had in his 34 years of serving at the department.

“They are professional and dedicated,” Ireland said. “In my opinion, we are one of the best fire departments in the United States. For us being a smaller group compared to Chicago or New York, this team can pick up, go to any major city and do their job well.”

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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Public Affairs Staff

Material contained on the Official Grissom Air Reserve Base Internet Web Site is written and produced by members of the 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Office. The award-winning staff includes:



Douglas Hays
Chief, public affairs

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Public affairs officer

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Tech. Sgt. Josh Weaver
NCOIC of public affairs

Master Sgt. Rachel Barton
Staff writer

Tech. Sgt. Jami Lancette
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Tech. Sgt. Courtney Dotson-Essett
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Staff Sgt. Chris Massey
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Staff Sgt. Michael Hunsaker
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Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert
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Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko
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Senior Airman Jeremy Blocker
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