Chip Shields, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue’s newest spokesman, knows a lot more about rescue than most people.
That’s because on Oct. 23, 1983, he was a 21-year-old Marine corporal, sleeping in the Beirut barracks when a suicide bomber drove a truck bomb into the compound, blowing up the building and killing 241 Marines.
I’ll let Shields, now 51, describe what happened:
“I was on my cot on the third floor. It was 6:20 a.m. when a truck shot the gap between guard shacks and headed toward the building. I heard small arms fire. Then when the truck crashed into guard shack at the entrance of the building, I jumped up and grabbed my weapon and helmet. I looked at my roommate and then the building exploded. I remember a big white flash. I could hear the blast, but only for a short period of time. It was a few seconds before the concussion hit and I was knocked out. I did feel myself falling. When I woke up, I could not tell if I was in a void or outside or what. I still don’t know what happened. I had both knees to my chest and my left arm across my head, I was pinned by a concrete column.
“I laid there for a while not knowing what was going on. There were over 300 inside that building, Everybody was screaming for help, I could hear just about everyone, including my roommate. I passed out sometime after that. When I woke up, it was really quiet. There were people walking on top of rubble, calling out. My platoon member was there. I shouted out to him, and he found me. He said he would find a way to get me out, said he would be back and grabbed shovel. I told him that my roommate Ricky is over on the other side, I have air. I am not in any pain. I lost blood, I can hold out a little bit. Go check on Ricky. He said he can’t get him out. I’ll help you. They dug under me and pulled me out.”
Shield’s roommate, Marine Cpl. Rick Crudale, was not as lucky. He was killed.
Shields went on to serve a total of 20 years in the Marines, the last eight with the Marine Reserve, before being hired by HCFR in 1993. He left to go to Colorado in 2001, but came back in 2003 and has been there since.
Shields, who joined the public information office last week for a six-month trial run, says he is looking forward to working as a spokesman.
“I have six years left,” he says. “I want to leave some kind of legacy for the department.”
One more thing to know about Shields.
The guy has great pipes. He is a fixture at Veterans Memorial Park and Museum, singing at functions there, as well as other veteran-related events in the area.
Air Force Col. Kirk W. Smith, special assistant to Adm. William McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general. As McRaven’s assistant, Smith deals directly with officials of the national security staff, Congress, the Pentagon, the services and other agencies on behalf of McRaven, according to Socom.
He is the liaison between staff and the commander, ensures the commander’s intent is accurately reflected in all command initiatives, advises the commander on all matters pertaining to U.S. special operations, aviation, and strategic communication and oversees preparation of strategic-level speeches, presentations, articles/policy documentation for the commander.
Wounded veterans challenge
Another year, another trek for the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge, this time to the Poplar Creek and Banadad Ski Trails in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness near Grand Marais, Minn., for some Nordic skiing.
On Jan. 2, 10 wounded and injured and their support team arrived in Grand Marais to begin a weeklong research project. The team was comprised of veterans from the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge and the J.E. Hanger College of Orthotics and Prosthetics at St. Petersburg College. Three days later, the team departed Bearskin Lodge and set out on the Poplar Creek Ski Trail. Their journey ended Jan. 7 when they arrived at Gunflint Lodge.
Two St. Petersburg College students with the Orthotic and Prosthetic Program worked with lower-limb amputees. The study was designed to appraise, contrast and compare five prosthetic feet to identify specific design characteristics among each device. The goal? Improve the performance of lower extremity amputees while cross-country skiing.
As the new year picks up steam, so too have events by, for and about veterans. Here’s a sample, in chronological order:
* The military-to-civilian recruitment firm RecruitMilitary will produce a Veteran Opportunity Expo, a hiring event for veterans at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Thurs., Jan. 16, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Veterans with civilian work experience, personnel who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life, members of the National Guard and reserves, military spouses, and other military family members are invited.
RecruitMilitary expects more than 25 employers, franchisors, educational institutions, and government agencies to reserve exhibitor booths at the Expo: Northrop Grumman Corp.; St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Centers for Technology Training; Quest Diagnostics Inc.; Argosy University; Florida Army National Guard; Federal Aviation Administration; Home Builders Institute; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Mosaic Co.; CarMax; Heavy Construction Academy; T A Operating Group; SCC Soft Computer; The Art Institutes; New Horizons Computer Learning Center; USAA; Trident University International; and Georgia College of Construction have already signed up.
RecruitMilitary will produce the Expo in cooperation with The American Legion.
* The Tampa area’s large military presence also means a large presence of military spouses, without whose sacrifice life would be even more challenging.
To honor those spouses, Military Spouse magazine is seeking nominations for the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards. Now in its seventh year, the award honors military spouses from all branches of service and all ranks. The deadline is Jan. 17. For more information, or to make a nomination, click here.
* The 4th Annual Wounded Warrior Golf Tournament, which will be held Jan. 20 at the Carrollwood Country Club, is looking for golfers and sponsors.
Money raised goes to the Salute Military Golf Association. After expenses last year, Booz Allen Hamilton, which runs the tournament, gave approximately $5,000 to the organization. The SMGA’s mission is to provide rehabilitative golf experiences and family-inclusive golf opportunities for post-9/11 wounded war veterans in an effort to improve their quality of life, according to the organization’s website. The SMGA believes the rehabilitative benefits of golf can improve the mental and physical condition of each and every post-9/11 wounded warrior. Registration is from 8:30 to 11 a.m. For more information, call David Christie at (813) 281-4956.
Florida soldier killed
Sgt. First Class William K. Lacey, 38, of Laurel Hill, died Jan. 4 in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when the enemy attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenades. Lacey was assigned to 201st Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.
There have now been 2,291 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation’s longest war.