Originally created 02/02/05

General commends work of firefighters



The commanding general of Fort Gordon honored firefighters on Tuesday who helped Aiken County officials deal with the Graniteville train disaster.

Maj. Gen. Janet Hicks presented notes of thanks to some of the civilian firefighters on post and also gave "commander's coins" as a token of appreciation.

"Without these members of our Fort Gordon family, we would not be able to provide for our neighbors in Graniteville," Maj. Gen. Hicks said.

"You did extremely well ... and you brought great distinction to all of our fine Army personnel," she said.

Fort Gordon's fire department, comprised of civilian firefighters, was one of many emergency agencies from the area that responded to the disaster Jan. 6.

The train wreck and subsequent chlorine release, which killed nine people, injured hundreds and evacuated thousands, had Fort Gordon firefighters working alongside firefighters from the Graniteville-Vaucluse-Warrenville Volunteer Fire De-partment and Augusta-Richmond County and Savannah River Site crews.

In the Army, coins like those given by Maj. Gen. Hicks hold special significance.

While they're not medals pinned at the behest of military officialdom, the coins represent tokens of special gratitude by commanders.

"It's an expression of recognition of something well done, above and beyond all," the major general said.

Lt. Col. Richard Karlsson, the head of the fort's emergency services, said the Fort Gordon crews helped to decontaminate more than 100 people after the chlorine exposure and assisted in search-and-rescue operations, helping to rescue 10 people in distress.

After the ceremony, Assistant Chief Matthew Williams showed Maj. Gen. Hicks pictures that crews took at the disaster scene.

The pictures showed men in hazardous material suits near the wreck as daylight shined on the wreckage. One picture showed trees that looked as if they were covered in snow - but in reality they had been whitened by the chlorine.

Capt. Alex Pelaez, who helped in the response and received one of the major general's notes, described the area around the scene as a "ghost town" after the accident.

"It was eerie," he said, describing how railroad crossing warning bells continued to ring as chlorine escaped from the breached car.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.

List of Fort Gordon firefighters honored by Maj. Gen. Hicks

The following firefighters received honors from Fort Gordon's commanding general, Maj. Gen. Janet Hicks on Tuesday, Feb. 1:

RECEIVING COMMANDER'S COINS AND NOTES OF THANKS ("STAR NOTES"):

Firefighters:

Christopher L. Bush

Mike J. Gaul

Doron Kleppen

Charles F. Puig

Buck J. Roberts

Daniel Z. Moore

David A. Sandoval

Justin D. Van Dyken

Joshua E. Neighbors

RECEIVING NOTES OF THANKS:

Drivers/Operators:

Johnny D. Bell

David G. Edmiston

Marcus A. Peterson

Corwin A. Turner

Crew chiefs:

Capt. Alex Pelaez

Capt. Henry M. Clay

Assistant Chiefs:

Chief Matthew S. Williams

Chief Raymon K. Hinegardner

Station Chief:

Chief John F. Ryan

Fire Inspector:

Thomas M. Morrison

Fire Chief:

Lester G. Porter

SOURCE: Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office.