Story by Cpl Sabrina Candiaflores on 04/02/2019MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (March 26, 2019) Hard work has paid off for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) Specialist, Sgt. Jose Toledo.
On March 15, 2019, Toledo was recognized at the station's parade deck in front of his unit, Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron (H&HS), for winning the 2018 Marine Corps Military Firefighter of the Year.
Every year, Marine firefighters put up their best firefighter and overall Marine, taking into consideration their experiences, education and performance from all year, and compete for the prestigious title of Marine Corps Military Firefighter of the Year.
Toledo, a Colorado Springs, Colorado native, had no idea he would receive a challenge coin that morning from the H&HS Commanding Officer (CO), Lt. Col. James C. Paxton.
"I noticed every shop was recognizing a Marine from their shop and I was told when I got there that I would be recognized as well," said Toledo. "When my turn came up, I was pretty surprised by how much Master Sergeant talked me up and when he finished, the CO handed me a challenge coin with a handshake. It was all pretty neat."
Toledo began his journey to become a Marine Corps firefighter in October 2015, when he shipped off to boot camp. Upon completion of his basic training requirements, he received orders to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan where he received several qualifications and certificates that would help him win the title. In September 2018, Toledo received orders to MCAS Yuma and was instantly noticed for his hard work and dedication to duty.
"I had only been working with this unit for a couple of months when they made me a section leader," said Toledo.
Toledo explained how a section leader, also known as a station captain, oversees all Marines in that section, which for him is 23 Marines. This billet is crucial in the ARFF department because not only is he responsible for his Marines and their well-being but also for making sure everything is maintained; fire trucks, equipment, etc. Toledo is also in charge and oversees all operations that section conducts, whether that's training or real emergency situations.
To determine which Marine will be the section leader, the senior leaders in the shop look at the Marine's training jacket, how they interact with other Marines, and how they contribute to the department as a whole.
MSgt. Benjamin Clark, MCAS Yuma's ARFF Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (SNCOIC) and the 2012 Marine Corps Fire Officer of the Year, noticed Toledo's desire to seek opportunities to better himself as a Marine, a firefighter and a leader.
"Senior leadership, we're drawn to him because of those exact attributes on a daily basis that he just exudes; and on the flip side, the troops are drawn to him because he's a natural and charismatic leader," said Clark.
GySgt. James Harris, MCAS Yuma's ARFF Crash Chief also observed characteristics of Toledo that couldn't be shown on paper but still were taken into account when choosing which ARFF Marine they would send to represent MCAS Yuma in the competition.
"He takes really good care of his Marines and he holds them all accountable, so he has a great balance in his leadership," explained Harris. "Hands down, he's the best. He is an outstanding Sergeant and an outstanding firefighter."
Toledo will attend the ARFF Conference in San Antonio, Texas, April 7th through the 12th, where he will represent MCAS Yuma and receive his plaque!