Shaw AFB firefighters awarded DOD level honor

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Bass
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Two firefighters from the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron received a Defense Department level award for heroism based on their actions that took place, April 9, 2013.

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Charleston, the 20th CES station captain, and Senior Airman Boyd Korb, a 20th CES firefighter, were directly responsible for the lifesaving rescue of a downed civilian firefighter in Sumter, S.C.

The Airmen received awards at the Air Combat Command and Air Force levels before going up to the DOD level.

"We were tasked to perform ventilation inside the structure," Charleston said. "We went inside to check for fire extension and when we went to the second floor there was heavy smoke."

Fire extension describes the spread of fire to other rooms through walls and other paths.

"Myself and Senior Airman Korb ran into some county firefighters who were in the building," Charleston said. "They asked us if we knew where one of their men was at, and we didn't hear anything, I told everybody to be quiet and we heard the (missing) firefighter's PASS (personal alert safety system) device going off."

A PASS device is worn by firefighters and emits a loud, audible noise if the firefighter is in distress.

After hearing the missing firefighter's PASS alert, Charleston and Korb traced the sound to an elevator shaft, he said.

At the bottom of this shaft was the downed firefighter, alive and conscious, but unable to move.

Charleston and Korb received permission to assist and rescued the firefighter by accessing the shaft from the first floor.

"Our firefighters spend a lot of time training, but training only goes so far," said Lt. Col. Terry Walter, the 20th CES commander.

Training for worst-case scenarios can be the best tool to prepare young Airmen for the challenges of being a firefighter here, Walter said.

"We're proud to be one of the best fire departments in the DOD," Charleston said. "We show it day in and day out."