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Our Government is at it Again: The National Fire Academy

I just found out something really crazy (crappy) about the state of the world within which our fire service operates. It seems as though the government of the United States has turned our National Fire Academy into a walled city where members of the fire service are not being welcomed into the world of knowledge and training which we all helped to create to create back in the 1970’s.

During a recent session at the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman’s Association (CVVFA) in Shippensburg, Pa., Chief Ron Siarnicki of the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation (NFFF) spoke of all the numerous problems which his organization is facing in order to get people onto the NFA campus for the annual memorial service in October. The powers that be within the government are demanding a full federal background check on anyone who is coming to be a part of the program and honor guard. What a load of donkey dung.

In addition to this critical problem, you may well be as surprised as I was to here that you and I are actually no longer welcome at the National Emergency Training Center (NETC). For my fellow purists, it is still the National Fire Academy. Oh, you can stop there and tell the security guard at the gate that you want to visit the Fallen Firefighter’s memorial. They will then subject you to a great deal of scrutiny and make you feel like the red-haired step child at the family reunion. 

They will demand that you leave your driver’s license with them. They will then follow your movements on the wide array of security cameras strung throughout the campus. Heaven help you if you do anything other than visit the one place you specified. People have been confronted by security guards and escorted off campus because they went to more than the one place they said they were visiting. OMG!

Frankly my friends, this is a load of nonsense. The American Fire Service created this wonderful learning facility. I personally cast a vote to locate the NFA in Emmitsburg, Md. back in the 1970’s when I was a member of the old Joint Council of National Fire Service Organizations. I recall being seated among the dignitaries at the dedication ceremony in 1979. I have taught there on a number of different occasions in the 1980’s and the 1990’s. I feel the pride of the parent in the offspring which my friends and I have created. 

I also recall when our National Fire Academy was hijacked by the powers what be when the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) was created. I have been consistently confounded by the actions which have been taken to minimize he importance of the NFA at the expense of puffing up the work of the EMI. Here we are 34 years after the dedication of the NFA with our education being delivered within the confines of a walled-city, under the ever-watchful eye of a massive array of security cameras. Big Brother!

I would like you to know that a number of protests are being filed with the federal government about this critical access matter. These are being filed by folks who are active in the fire service and want to visit the memorial area and the Learning Resource Center. They are upset by the way in which they were treated. I guess there are those who would smack me down for speaking against security in this era of politically perpetrated perpetual panic about terrorism. Nonsense!

Our great government, even with all of its informational vacuuming techniques, could do nothing to stop the Boston bombing terrorist suspects. Give me a break. I am a retired U.S. Army Reserve officer who served his nation for the better part of three decades. During my service career I held a secret security clearance in those instances when the duties of my job required it. 

As a result of my service, I hold a retired military identification card and can enter the vast majority of military bases in this country to visit, shop at the exchange facilities, or commissary facilities just by showing my card. But this little fact apparently cuts no mustard with the gate guard gang at the NFA in Maryland. The last time I was there, they made me leave my ID card with the gate guard. This is pure case of some government created bovine byproducts (BS being the generally accepted street definition for the those among you who wish to hear it that way).

My friends, this security nonsense is creating a great disconnect between the people who created the National Fire Academy, and those people themselves. We need to speak to our elected officials about this matter. I believe it is critical for each of us to share with them this example of the nonsense which is being foisted upon us by our government in the name of security. 

Let me close this visit with you by quoting of one of the great founding fathers of our nation. It was Benjamin Franklin who was quoted as saying that, “… Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.” It is truly that simple my friends. Life has risk my friends and I truly believe that no amount of ID checks at the gate of the National Fire Academy are going to make America that much safer. 

I am not a fringe political troublemaker. I have been a volunteer for nearly five decades. I have served my nation in many different ways. I think we all need to get off our butts and raise a little hell on behalf of our friends at the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. For the sake of my dear friend Ron Siarnicki, I hope this gets settled soon. We need to come together on this issue. Take care and stay safe.