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Airman gets FDNY promotion while deployed to Iraq

ALI BASE, Iraq -- Staff Sgt. Gregg Magi poses in front of a mural remembering the 343 firefighters who lost their lives at Ground Zero trying to help the victims of Sept. 11, 2001.  Sergeant Magi was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the Fire Department City of New York during a ceremony via telephone Aug. 16.  He is a firefighter with the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron and is deployed from the New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Melissa Phillips)

ALI BASE, Iraq -- Staff Sgt. Gregg Magi poses in front of a mural remembering the 343 firefighters who lost their lives at Ground Zero trying to help the victims of Sept. 11, 2001. Sergeant Magi was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the Fire Department City of New York during a ceremony via telephone Aug. 16. He is a firefighter with the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron and is deployed from the New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Melissa Phillips)

ALI BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- An Airman here recently gained the distinction of being addressed as both a staff sergeant and a lieutenant.

Staff Sgt. Gregg Magi, a 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the Fire Department City of New York via telephone during an Aug. 16 ceremony in New York.

“It feels good to be promoted,” said Sergeant Magi, who is deployed from the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Airlift Wing. “I’ve always wanted to be involved in public service.”

During the ceremony, he and two of his co-workers crowded around a telephone to listen as the events unfolded. When Sergeant Magi’s name was called and the crowd was informed he was serving in Iraq, thunderous applause echoed over the line.

“It was humbling to hear the applause,” he said. “I just want to thank all the FDNY firefighters who have showed me their support.”

Master Sgt. Charles Burke, the 407th ECES assistant fire chief, surprised Sergeant Magi with the news of his promotion earlier in the day. However, Sergeant Magi still was not aware he would take the oath over the telephone until it occurred. He had incorrectly assumed he would have to wait until the next class.

“It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy,” Sergeant Burke said. “He studied for it, and if anyone’s ready for the responsibility, it’s him.”

No stranger to hard work, Sergeant Magi studied 5,000 pages of material to achieve his new rank. As a lieutenant, he will supervise a four- to five-person firefighting crew and is charged with ensuring his crewmembers’ safety on scene.

“There are more than 100 New York City firefighters that I know of deployed in the Southwest Asia area of responsibility,” Sergeant Magi said. “They all deserve the same amount of recognition.”

Sergeant Magi, who is a fulltime firefighter with Squad 18, Special Operations Command, was one of 27 firefighters promoted at the ceremony.

Based in Manhattan, Sergeant Magi’s unit is known for high-angle/technical rescue and high-rise firefighting in New York’s many skyscrapers. His unit also performs rescue operations.

He was working Sept. 11, 2001 when the Twin Towers were hit. Instead of immediately being sent to the scene, his former unit, Engine Company 82, covered another engine company’s territory who had already responded to Ground Zero.

A fire broke out in Harlem, and Sergeant Magi and the rest of his company went to contain it. He and his crew did not get to Ground Zero until after it collapsed.

In the chaos that ensued, the lieutenant from the other company perished inside the wreckage.

It is something Sergeant Magi said he will never forget. It is one of the reasons he enlisted in the military and volunteered to come to Iraq.

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to serve in the war on terrorism,” Sergeant Magi said. “I wanted to step up and do something positive for the memory of the (people) we lost and their families who were affected.”

Three hundred and forty-three fighters died trying to rescue victims of the attack.

“New York City was hit hard by 9/11, and it destroyed a lot of lives,” he said.

He understands not everyone is happy with the U.S. military presence in Iraq, but he personally feels it necessary.

“People are entitled to their opinion to disagree if we should be here,” Sergeant Magi said. “For me, I know us being here keeps the insurgents on their ‘back feet’ so they can’t plan an attack in the United States or in any other country.

“It’s very necessary to go where (the terrorists) live,” he said.

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