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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Base fire chief retires after 28 years on call

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | September 6, 2013


Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany’s Fire Chief Jack Colby hung up his uniform for the last time Aug. 23, marking a career that has spanned more than two decades.

After serving 12 years as fire chief, Colby retired with more than 28 years of fire service.

Col. Don Davis, commanding officer, MCLB Albany, highlighted Colby’s career during his retirement ceremony held at the Town and Country Restaurant’s Grand Ballroom.

Davis spoke about Colby’s accomplishments and his love and devotion to his family.

Colby is a husband and father dedicated not just to the service he provides the base community but to his family as well, according to Davis.

Jack and his wife, Kim, have been married for 35 years, which shows how serious he is about his family, Davis continued.

“I want to say thank you for your service to each other, which reflects in your service to us,” he said.

Colby thanked his family for their support during his career.

“I have a family who is not military and they loved and supported me through everything from moving to Okinawa, Japan, to missing special occasions including birthdays and anniversaries,” he said. “They stood by me through it all and I have been blessed in so many ways.”

During the ceremony, Colby received a Meritorious Civilian Service Award, Certificate of Appreciation, several plaques and two American flags. One flag was flown over the U.S. Capitol on behalf of U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and the other over the base.

“I love the fire service and I am grateful to so many people along the way,” Colby said. “No accomplishment made by this department was made by one individual.

“To say that the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps has been very good to me would be an understatement,” he added. “The Marines are the finest fighting force in the world and I had the opportunity to provide protection for them. It’s been an honor and a privilege to be in the Marine Corps and on this installation.”

Colby’s interest in fire service began when he participated in CPR training at the Sylvester Fire Department, in Sylvester, Ga.

The 1975 Worth County High graduate, an automotive technician by trade, was compelled to take the training after a couple of his loved ones had heart attacks. Colby said he thought CPR was a skill he should have as an average citizen.

In early 1989, Colby began his fire service career as an intermittent or fill-in firefighter working with the Sylvester Fire Department.

“I was paid $2 for every incident you responded to, $4 for training nights and $4 if large hoses were rolled out at a scene,” Colby said. “To say the least, it was not financially beneficial but this was nearly thirty years ago too.”  

When decided to take the position as a volunteer firefighter, he received a helmet, coat and a pair of gloves, which turned out to be a pair of welding gloves. His main job was to roll up the hoses after a fire was extinguished.

According to Colby, on his first day on the job at the fire department he had to learn how to put his bunker pants over his boots because of a lack of training.

While at the Sylvester Fire Department, he conducted on-the-job training and attended Emergency Medical Technician school.

Little did he know that he would use the lifesaving skills to save his own daughter’s life. She was visiting him at the fire department when she began choking after shoving a hand full of peanuts into her mouth.

In October 1989, he became a part-time firefighter at MCLB Albany,  switching to full time in 1990. While waiting for a permanent position to open, he worked for the Georgia Fire Academy as an adjunct instructor in Dacula, Ga.

“When I became a firefighter at the base, we had two missions, fire and hazardous materials,” he said. “In those days there was little hazardous materials so we focused on firefighting. Today, we have fire, hazardous materials, emergency medical services and various types of rescues including confined space, low-angle and high-angel rescues.

“The firefighters today are much better educated than I was when I started,” he said “I truly believe Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany has the best of the best firefighters protecting its community.”

According to Colby, he was the first EMT/firefighter hired at the base. Spending most of his career at MCLB Albany, he moved up the ranks from firefighter to crew chief, training chief, assistant chief of operations and to assistant fire chief, before landing the fire chief position in 2003.

He said one of his most trying times as a firefighter was when he was a crew chief conducting rescue operations during the Albany flood in July 1994.

In July 1996, Colby transferred to Okinawa, Japan, where he was selected to be the training chief for Marine Corps Base Camp Butler. There he trained more than 200 local nationals in firefighting operations, which enhanced the safety of base personnel. He was also responsible for establishing the all-services Fire Academy on Okinawa in addition to teaching the first High Angle and Confined Space Rescue Course there.

After three years, he returned to MCLB Albany in 1999 to serve as a training chief. In 2002, Colby was promoted to assistant chief of operations and then to fire chief in January 2003.

From 2006 to 2007, Colby filled in as the deputy director, Public Safety Division, MCLB Albany, while maintaining his duties as the fire chief. He also worked with Marine Corps Headquarters Fire Protection in Washington, D.C., to acquire a new ladder truck and pumper for the base.

As fire chief, he was credited with establishing a cyclical maintenance program for fire department equipment, which enabled the department to institute budget requirements and justifications. In January 2007, he established the Paramedic Program, enabling the department to provide Advance Cardiac Life Support care to personnel on the installation.

Colby was very instrumental in documenting the need for a second station, Fire Station 2, which opened January 2009, according to Bill McNulty, director, Public Safety Division.

“This has enabled the department to deliver crucial time requirements on emergency medical services and fire incidents,” McNulty said. “The average response time is about four minutes to anywhere on this installation. This is a phenomenal response time and the second fire station has helped out a lot. From an emergency stand point, time is of the essence.”

According to several firefighters, Colby has made an impact not only here but worldwide.

Colby has recently received several emails from firefighters expressing how he had left a lasting impact on their lives.

“I don’t know if you are aware of how much of a positive impact you made on us,” Anthony Toguchi, battalion chief, Operations, Marine Corps Fire Department, MCB Camp Butler, said. “Of all the Americans, you are the only one the Okinawan firefighters still talk about.”

Now that he is retired, Colby said he plans to spend a lot more time with his family, work on his three cars and complete several projects around the house that need his attention.