June 07--NORMAL -- Tyson Shultz received two firefighter certifications from the Department of Defense while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
But when he joined the Bloomington Fire Department eight years ago, he still was required to go through training again. The nine weeks of training cost Bloomington taxpayers about $17,000. The course is $4,000 and firefighters receive their base pay through training, said BFD training officer Brian Mohr. In addition the city picks up hotel costs and provides a per diem for food.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, is hoping to change that. Kirk, in Normal Friday and joined by state Sen. Bill Brady and state Rep. Dan Brady, asked Gov. Pat Quinn to issue an executive order adopting a firefighter reciprocity for veterans.
Kirk said if the training is "good enough for the U.S. Navy" it should be good enough for Illinois.
"The Department of Defense invests a substantial amount of money to ensure that these airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines and members of the Coast Guard receive world-class training to carry out life-saving missions across the world," the letter to Quinn states. "These men and women should be able to transfer the skills and certificates they receive during their time in the military to civilian life as easy as possible."
Besides Kirk, the letter is signed by U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, Aaron Schock, Randy Hultgren and John Shimkus.
"It's an important initiative for the military and public safety," said Bill Brady, R-Bloomington.
In part of a statement issued Friday afternoon, Quinn's office said "in 2013 the governor issued an executive order that created an inter-agency task force to tackle the issue of military training and state licensure requirements. The task force is reviewing scores of licenses and is already in the process of determining how to grant reciprocity for Illinois' military firefighters who have received a Department of Defense-issued firefighter certification."
Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said there are more than 700,000 veterans in Illinois and the state is lagging behind the other 38 states that already offer this reciprocity.
The announcement was made outside the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center where about 500 firefighters were attending the Association of Fire Fighters of Illinois convention. Pat Devaney, president of the AFFI, applauded Kirk's initiative.
"We've had great experience with returning veterans," Devaney said.
He said each fire department has individual training requirements so some additional training might be required even if the reciprocity was enacted by Quinn.
In Shultz' case, he earned firefighter I and firefighter II training as well as aircraft firefighting training in the military. He served in Iraq, Australia and Japan. He also received training in hazardous materials.
"None of it transferred," he said, adding if he was transferred to the BFD station that covers the airport, he would have to undergo another round of aircraft firefighting training under current state rules.
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