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GUEST COMMENTARY: New training center fuels fires of first responders
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GUEST COMMENTARY: New training center fuels fires of first responders

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On Saturday, the Multi Agency Academic Cooperative (MAAC) will formally open its doors to all of Northwest Indiana’s Emergency Services Community. Remarkably enough, MAAC has yet to formally open, but already hundreds of first responders have participated in training on the 4.5-acre Valparaiso training campus.

The facility takes training to a whole new level for firefighters, police officers and EMS personnel, and its emphasis of supporting both volunteer and career agencies is commendable.

My volunteer firefighting career started in early 2007. My wife, Jamalyn, was a dispatcher for Valparaiso Police Department at the time. I had met quite a few people in emergency services through her and was intrigued by the way their brotherhood was similar to that of my days in the U.S. Navy. She finally convinced me to join Washington Township Fire Department.

I think it was mostly her way of getting some time without me bugging her, but she tells it differently. Almost 11 years later, I am still a member of the department, along with my wife.

Being a volunteer in my community is so much more than just responding to emergencies. I have spent countless hours at church events, school functions, local business promotions, parades and the Porter County Fair, showing children our trucks and teaching them about fire safety.

Many people have approached me to tell the stories of how we saved their loved ones or responded to fires at their homes.

It is a great feeling to interact with the community we serve, especially when you know you were part of a team that made someone’s worst day a little bit easier by being there for them.

It makes it a lot easier for someone when a familiar face walks through their door to offer help, so we try to take every possible opportunity to either get out and meet with people or get them in our station.

Whenever we have new recruits interview to join the department, we always start with one simple question, "Why do you want to volunteer?"

I can only recall one or two people that didn’t respond with, “Because I want to help people in my community."

It’s not an easy job, but once it’s in your blood, it becomes a part of you. It becomes a passion.

The creation of the MAAC Foundation has opened so many doors for us to pursue that passion and become better trained to help the people of our communities. In the past, training could easily become stale. While it was good training, crawling around the floor of our station, or climbing ladders to the roof could start to become tedious, and training attendance would suffer.

MAAC provides us with a centralized location to train and network with many other firefighters and emergency services personnel in Northwest Indiana.

It’s not often that you see police, fire and EMS all training together at the same time, yet we all work together on most emergency scenes we respond to.

It’s very exciting to see this facility come together and even more exciting to think of what the future has in store for generations of emergency personnel that follow in our footsteps.

Kelly Bogan is a captain in the Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department. The opinions are the writer's.

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