MUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (4/29/13) – Friday, April 26th's ribbon cutting ceremony for the Bryant Stiles National Responder Preparedness Center brought out firefighters, local and state officials, members of the Kentucky National Guard and the Kentucky Fire Commission.
The new million dollar building, the first step in a unique first responders' training project, is located directly across from the entrance to the Wendell H. Ford National Guard Regional Training Center.
The facility is just the first step in what several speakers noted will eventually become a multi-million dollar training facility for first responders from across the nation.
Kentucky Fire Commission Executive Director Ronnie Day stressed that point by telling the crowd that "We knew some years ago, that this was going to be a big thing. We just didn't know how big. And we still don't know how big it's going to be. After talking with Major General Tonini, it's already progressed from what we had envisioned just a couple of months ago."
Day recognized the hard work of many, including the late Bryant Stiles, a native of McLean County, whose family was on hand for the ribbon cutting and unveiling of a plague in his honor. Stiles worked for more than 20 years on the Kentucky Fire Commission. Sadly, he passed away this past September. Day noted that if not for the hard work of Stiles and many others the training center would not be a reality today. We anticipate putting fulltime people here real quick, because I don't think with what we have here now we are going to be able to handle all of that we have planned." Day added.
Tiger Robinson, Chairman of the Kentucky Fire Commission Volunteer Firefighters, noted that "The training facility creates a new and unique partnership between the military, our educational system and first responders. We're all on the front lines together."
Doctor Jay Box, Chancellor of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, told the crowd he was proud of the partnerships that have been nurtured between the military, the forestry service, and the Kentucky Fire Commission to develop a training facility that will offer tailored programs to Kentucky's first responders, including firefighters, EMS, the military and law enforcement. It is definitely a win-win for all involved. In our ever changing world, our first responders have to be prepared for whatever comes their way. This new facility does just that." Box said.
Major General Edward W. Tonini, Commanding General of the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard, noted that there is a huge similarity between those who wear the military uniform and those who wear a fire fighter's uniform. "The integrity, the work ethic, the willingness to go out and risk your life to save other people…I salute every one of you in uniform here today."
Tonini also reminded the crowd of the amazing history of the Wendell H. Ford National Guard Regional Training Center.
"The center has a long history with the National Guard. When we first came here in 1969 we had a trailer up on the hill and 25 acres of land. In the subsequent years, I believe it's developed into the crown jewel of the Kentucky National Guard. We have 54 facilities throughout the state, but this is my pride and joy. This new building represents just the tip of the iceberg. The Kentucky National Guard and the Kentucky Fire Commission see this as expanding into something much much larger." Tonini told the crowd.
With future plans that include a $10 million 25 acre training site, complete with an aircraft simulator, rail cars for hazardous materials training and a burn tower for rappelling, and close quarter fire training, plus talk of training fire fighters and others from across the country, the Bryant Stiles National Responder Preparedness Center appears to be just the beginning of a new chapter for Western Kentucky's contribution to training first responders.
Photos provided by Paul McRee
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