Story by SGT Marc Loi
NORFOLK, Va – What had 19 U.S. military officers and one Brazilian officer belting out a Karaoke rendition of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York, Tuesday afternoon? The officers had just won the Joint and Combined Warfighting School Softball Championship at the Joint Forces Staff College by defeating Seminar 1 by a score of 7 – 2.
The students were members of Seminar 5, JCWS Class 08-1. Each year, four 10-week JCWS classes are held at JFSC. Each class of approximately 250 students is broken down into seminars. Along with their military studies, the seminar students participate in a competitive Softball tournament.
Each team normally design and wear t-shirts that follow a JFSC theme. This time, however, a Seminar 5 student had an idea to do something a little different. U.S. Army Major Douglas LeVien brought up the idea of wearing the t-shirts firefighters of the FDNY wear, rather than the traditional JFSC uniforms. “I am originally from New York and the high school I attended was actually supported by Engine 24/ Ladder 5/ Battalion 2, located at 227 Avenue of Americas (6th Ave), in Manhattan.” LeVien said. “They are about a mile from Ground Zero.
The reason LeVien wanted to do this, he said, was to honor the firefighters of Ladder 5, who all perished Sept. 11, 2001.
Much like service members, firefighters are the first responders, LeVien said. They are the ones who, when everyone is heading toward the direction of safety, they head into the direction of danger. “On September 11, when everyone was running out of the buildings, those guys were heading into those buildings,” LeVien said.
LeVien contacted Ladder 5 with his idea. They fully supported the idea and provided the t-shirts. “These are the shirts they actually wear in the firehouse,” he added.
For JCWS instructor, CDR Chris Kirkbride, LeVien’s ability to reach out and work with other agencies is the kind of connection he hopes to get across to students. “We teach a lot about acculturation – doing these kinds of things expand us to the civilian sectors and the first responders,” Kirkbride said. “It’s a nice way to bring the team to a higher purpose.”
Perhaps driven by the purpose of what they were doing, Seminar 5 breezed through the season, and entered the Championship Game with a record of 6 and 1, having outscored opponents 67 to 32.
Prior to the Championship Game, LeVien had this thought “Win, lose or draw, what we’ve done as a team will serve as a symbol for the students in our seminar for the rest of our lives. The firefighter shirt is a symbol of courage. Results don’t mean much in the end, but having the shirt, smiling and remembering our classmate in Seminar 5 does.” Before the Championship Game got underway, Seminar 5 team member U.S. Air Force Major Bob Tompkins sang the National Anthem.
At the end of each JCWS class, each Seminar places a decorated tile on the ceiling of Pub 1, a popular after-hours hangout for College personnel. Seminar 5’s tile will be one of the shirts surrounded by the signatures of the team members so the memory of Seminar 5 and what they did to honor Ladder 5 will be long remembered.