By Dona Fair
Special to The Laker
Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicolas R. Gagnon, son of Ronn Gagnon of Deerberry Drive, Land O Lakes, has turned his dreams of becoming a firefighter into a reality. Gagnon is a student at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas.
The academy is host to the fire protection apprentice course, training more than 1,400 students from all services each year in a comprehensive 68-day course that gives students the basics in fire science and live training drills along with a dash of chemistry, physics, and math. More than 2,000 students attend advanced courses as well. The school is accredited through the International Fire Service Accreditation.
“Prior to coming here, I did a lot of cardiovascular and strength training to help me pass all of the objectives here,” said Gagnon, who is assigned to the 366th Civil Engineer Squadron, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. “Overall, being mentally prepared has helped me get through the course.”
Live fires in buildings and aircraft, a series of timed tasks and tests, and search and rescue drills in confined spaces in full fire fighting gear keep Gagnon and the other students at the top of their game.
“The training has been tough at times but rewarding,” said the 2005 graduate of Tampa Baptist Academy. “I feel like I have earned this certification to the full extent. It is great getting paid to have fun.”
For Gagnon and his fellow classmates, the outcome is far more than simply the realization of a dream. The results of their training and shared experience could easily result in lives saved in countless places and situations around the world.
“I wanted to become a firefighter because of September 11th,” Gagnon said. “I know that it’s the ‘cliché’ but it’s the truth, I wanted to help. I want to be the one people call on when they are in trouble. Also being in the military gives me the opportunity to serve my country to fullest extent.”