Military and fire service go well together in Missoula - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Military and fire service go well together in Missoula

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MISSOULA - When you see our firefighters and police officers at work, you often don’t realize many of them are veterans, or continuing an active military career in the reserves or National Guard. 

And for one Missoula firefighter it’s a combination that’s taken him from the mountains of Montana to the mountains of Afghanistan on his missions of public service.

Call for fire or medical help in Missoula and chances are you’ll see Curt Shields behind the wheel. But it was the military life that called him away right after he graduated high school, beginning a five-year stint in the Navy.

Curt served on search and rescue missions, including time as a rescue diver, one of the most demanding jobs in the Armed Forces. 

But when he came back to home, he jokes there weren’t many Navy opportunities in Montana. So he signed up with the Army Reserves, where he’s been on a variety of missions over the past 15 years, including time in Iraq, Afghanistan and other campaigns in the Middle East, working on everything from helicopter operations to engineering.

“It was great to get to travel. You didn’t know where you were going, but you’re going somewhere and I got to see and do a lot of stuff I wouldn’t have done," Shields said. "And coming from Montana it’s a big world. It’s cool to get a chance to go out and see that stuff while you’re working.”

But five years ago, Curt decided to add something else to his resume, getting a position with Missoula Fire.

“The fire department’s a great job. A great experience for me. I think probably being in the military first made me a good candidate to get hired here.”

In fact, Curt was grateful Missoula Fire held a position for him while he finished a deployment and has helped him continue to serve overseas. And while there are similarities, there are differences too.

“Yeah, there’s a lot of differences. I think the biggest difference is being real junior here and being senior in the military. That’s kind of a different change of pace.”

And Curt says any young men and women considering their future could be well served to look at the fire department or the military. Or both.

“I like that you get to do something different every day. You’re not stuck in a rut. You have a chance to have a real exciting day. They don’t all turn out like that but it’s nice to have a chance.” 

And Curt isn’t the only member of Missoula Fire with military experience. At least a dozen others also have been enlisted in various branches of the Armed Forces over the years.

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