News: Everyone has a story: Volunteer spirit helps fire inspector find passion
Story by Airman Areca T. Bell
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. – The engine exploded, and projectiles scattered into the air, hitting individuals nearby. As the young soldier looked on, he knew only one thing: he had to help them.
The unexpected explosion gave Christian Jacobs, a former helicopter flight engineer, the final push in finding his calling of helping others.
Jacobs’ motivation to help others not only allowed him the opportunity to serve his country, but also helped him find his passion and the chance to educate people and mold the nation’s future.
“Firefighting was something that always interested me,” said Jacobs. “When I was stationed in Korea, the explosion hurt a few people. I was on scene and was able to help out; I got hooked from there.”
Now 16 years later, the former soldier’s journey has come full circle. Jacobs, once assigned as a student at the 1st Battalion, 222nd Aviation Regiment at Fort Eustis in 1990, found himself back in familiar territory when he was stationed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
At Langley, Jacobs serves as a 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron fire inspector, a job that requires him to work in public fire education and fire code compliance. Jacobs oversees the base fire inspection program and serves as the fire department’s accreditation program manager and base fire prevention program manager. His responsibilities also include reviewing construction and renovation projects.
Jacobs’ career in firefighting began when he started as a volunteer firefighter, working his way up the chain and gaining life experience and education.
After finishing his enlistment in 1994, Jacobs began volunteering with the fire department in Fort Carson, Colo., and was hired as a firefighter in 2000 at nearby Schriever Air Force Base.
While in Colorado, Jacobs said he was given the opportunity to gain experiences rarely acquired by “the average Joe.”
“I was the incident commander for a multi-jurisdictional search and rescue operation for two missing people,” said Jacobs, “an experience I would’ve never had while on base.”
Jacobs described the opportunity to rescue two individuals successfully on a cold night as “rewarding” and “a privilege.”
“It was very fulfilling,” said Jacobs. “Search and rescue missions don’t always end well. Fortunately, we were able to find them.”
While serving as a full-time and volunteer firefighter from 1994 to 2009, Jacobs earned an associate degree in 2005, a Bachelor of Science in 2003 and a Master of Public Administration in 2008.
Though Jacobs is thankful for the opportunities offered to him, he admitted balancing, work, education, volunteerism and a supporting family did not come without its struggles.
“One of the biggest challenges was making time for it all,” said Jacobs. “There were plenty of missed meals, lost sleep and absences from significant events. There were times where my wife wasn’t always happy with me.”
Jacobs said his passion for helping others began with his dedication to work. His commitment to making sure he gives his best is recognized by those who work with him.
“[Jacobs] embodies what it is to be a fire inspector, and instills his strong values in those around him,” said Richard Pettyjohn, 633rd CES assistant fire prevention chief. “His drive gives those who work with him the inspiration to perform at their best.”
Apart from ensuring the safety of the JBLE community, Jacobs volunteers in the Civil Air Patrol, the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. Jacobs has been able to merge both his passion for volunteering and educating future generations in leadership guidance, aerospace education and emergency services training.
The commander of CAP’s Langley Composite Squadron, Jacobs is responsible for the professional development of 16 senior members and more than 50 cadets. He ensures everyone meets their annual training and education requirements, and keeps his unit ready if called upon to support local civil authorities or the federal government in the event of an emergency.
“Through CAP I am able to I am able to change someone’s life,” said Jacobs. “I get the opportunity to help shape them for a better future.”
In the end, Jacobs said he is fortunate for the experience he has gained over the years, the opportunity to serve others and the ability to shape future generations.
Though finding the time to perform all of these activities was difficult, he proved perseverance and hard work pays off.
“Though balancing it all can be trying at times, in the end it has its benefits.” said Jacobs. “I get the opportunity to serve others and to watch young people come into the [CAP] program, then go off into new, interesting and inspiring things. Helping others is not about what you get out of it, I think it’s the right thing to do.”