Overseas, Blomker focused on fire prevention

-Submitted photo Chad Blomker, a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve, is shown standing at right. He is pictured with the 487th Engineer Detachment, out of Fort Des Moines, in Bulgaria during his most recent deployment.

In 2011, when Chad Blomker opened the doors to the United States Army Recruiting Center at Crossroads Mall, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

“I walked into the recruiting station and flat out said I wanted to be a firefighter and wasn’t interested in anything else,” he said. “It’s something I have always wanted to do. I wanted to do something a little bit different. Something that at the end of the day, you know you have made a difference.”

Blomker was 26 at the time. He is a 2003 Humboldt High School graduate and a former resident of Fort Dodge.

Prior to enlisting, he graduated from Iowa Central Community College in 2005.

He also worked at Fareway Grocery in Fort Dodge behind the meat counter.

Blomker is a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve. He serves as a crew chief for firefighter detachment overseas.

He recently returned to the United States from his latest deployment where he provided fire protection in Romania and Bulgaria.

“I kind of alternated between the two,” he said.

Blomker said his mission was through NATO.

“We were working closely with the host countries,” he said. “It’s mostly deterrence just to have some strength along that Black Sea. They share borders with some not-so-friendly forces. All the way up to Poland down to Bulgaria, there is an alternating presence of NATO troops to show our strength and support for those countries.”

The area of Europe where he was stationed serves as a transition point for troops.

“MK (air base) and NSTA (military training facility) have been there for quite a few years,” he said. “They serve as kind of a quick stop as people are deploying into Europe and the Middle East. It originally served as a stopping point before moving into country, but now it’s being built up as more of a permanent base.”

Blomker oversees other firefighters assigned to his truck.

“I am in charge of a ward of our fire trucks,” Blomker said. “Our main base was in Romania, but we did rotations through Bulgaria. They had a full-time crew there. It was kind of a rotation back and forth.”

About three or four people ride on each truck, he said.

“As crew chief you are in charge of that truck and the guys,” Blomker said. “We do as much training as we can get done. We do normal fire station duties, really.”

“We had three fire trucks,” he said. “We operate as one engine and a backup rescue engine. We also had a crew on recall at all times as well.”

Four crews worked on a rotation to provide protection, according to Blomker.

“We had four rotations and we were the full-time fire department for MK in Romania and NSTA in Bulgaria as well,” he said. “We were working with civilian fire trucks, which is quite a bit different than our military fire trucks. There was a little bit of a learning curve.”

The rotations last 48 hours.

“We would do 48-hour rotations where we would be on shift and sleep in the quarters at the fire station,” he said. “So we are ready for 24-hour response.”

He spends the next 48 hours on recall.

“We are on base,” he said. “We have radios. You still sleep in the quarters at the fire station. You still have work duties to do, but you always have a radio in case there is a big call, you can race to the fire station and get that backup truck.”

Prevention is a large part of Blomker’s job.

“We do a lot of fire inspections and stuff like that to make sure we are preventing fires,” he said. “Not having a lot of calls just means we are doing a good job on prevention.”

He also conducted training exercises.

“During our duty days, we go through base familiarization when we get boots on the ground, so we know where the hydrants are. We check those, make sure they are functional. Building walkthroughs — a little bit of everything. We were able to do some live training, pull some hose though building-type stuff. We have crews act as victims and go through and rescue them.”

Blomker was able to work in cooperation with troops from other countries.

“As far as deployments go, I think we got really lucky with this mission,” he said. “A lot of people are going to Iraq and Kuwait and stuff like that. We are still deploying to the desert and I think we got really lucky with this NATO mission.

“We were able to work with a number of different NATO countries like Romania, Bulgaria, France and the British Royal Air Force,” he said “We have made a lot of really good friends from of all over the map.”

His deployment provided a platform for new life experiences, aside from his military duties.

“I had a four-day pass with another one of my NCOs and we were able to go Bucharest,” he said. “We went to the Bucharest craft beer festival, which was really neat. I home brew back home, so it was really interesting to see this craft beer movement in Romania where it’s kind of in its infancy. We got to talk to these brewers, chat with them and try some of their stuff, and actually made some really good friends there.”

During Christmas, Blomker took a dive in the Black Sea for charity.

“We did a canned food drive for a local charity during the holidays for Christmas and we raised all these cans of food and did a polar plunge in the Black Sea on Christmas day,” he said.

“I am sure I will never do that again.”

He said the weather there is similar to Iowa.

“The weather is not too far off what we have in Iowa and they had kind of a harsh winter as well,” he said. “It was about the coldest thing you can imagine.”

Not as many people joined him in the plunge as originally planned.

“I think about 20 donated cans and signed up for it and it ended up being about four who took the plunge,” he said. “By the time Christmas day rolled around they were thinking about better things, but it was fun.”

Blomker’s wife, Kaleena Blomker, is a Fort Dodge native. His parents, Ron and Carlene Blomker, live in Humboldt.

Chad Blomker recently completed his first six-year contract with the U.S. Army Reserve.

“I plan on doing at least six more with this unit,” he said. “I’ve got a good group of guys and girls I get to work with.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today