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Huttle honored for saving Brickerville home
Jeff Huttle was in the right place at the right time to make a big difference in a situation that could have proved disastrous for a Brickerville family last fall.
For his efforts, Army National Guard first sergeant (1SG) received the Pennsylvania Distinguished Service Medal, signed by Gov. Tom Corbett, at a ceremony at Fort Indiantown Gap last Saturday. The medal was presented by his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel John Kubitz.
Huttle was on his way to work at “The Gap” from his home in Ephrata on Sept. 26, 2013, when he noticed smoke coming from a residence in the 400 block of East 28th Division Highway (Route 322).
“It was not my normal time to drive past there,” he said. “I was working the night shift that week.”
Huttle pulled over, called 911, and tried to alert residents of the home. After determining that no one was at home, he began looking around for something that he could use to fight the fire until firefighters arrived.
“I found a recycling bucket that I emptied,” Huttle said. He used it to carry water repeatedly to the source of the smoke.
Brickerville Fire Chief Jeff Strauss was the first firefighter on the scene.
“The incident was dispatched as a working fire with smoke showing, but when I arrived I couldn’t see any smoke or fire.”
Strauss, a volunteer firefighter, was at his regular job at Elizabeth Farms just north of Brickerville and arrived on the scene a few minutes after the call went out. He found only melted vinyl siding with charred wood siding underneath.
Huttle had single-handedly put out the fire. “I only did what any of these soldiers would have done,” he said, indicating his company.
Strauss explained that the fire marshal later determined that a resident had apparently smoked a cigarette, put the butt into a can kept outside for that purpose, and left the residence. The butt can caught fire and ignited some newspapers that were nearby, and that ignited the building.
The Pennsylvania Distinguished Service Medal is awarded by the Governor to members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, Pennsylvania Guard or Armed Forces of the United States or their reserve components in recognition of meritorious service beyond the normal dictates of duty to the Commonwealth.
Representatives of the Brickerville Fire Company were invited to attend Saturday’s award ceremony. Chief Strauss and President Kurt Gardner presented a plaque to Huttle. It reads, “Brickerville Volunteer Fire Company proudly presents this certificate to 1SG Jeff Huttle in recognition of swift action at a house fire on Sept. 26, 1213, presented this 19th day of July, 2014”.
Also representing the fire company were safety officer Mike Corcoran, chief engineer Larry Eckert, and training officer Nevin May.
Huttle is 1SG of Headquarters, Headquarters Company 2nd – 104th Aviation Battalion. The company supports the battalion command and control element, and provides administrative, logistical, intelligence, medical and communication support for the battalion. The primary mission of the battalion is various types of helicopter support to the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade.
Huttle’s full-time position is a crew chief flight instructor for the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. He trains crew chiefs, participates in state rescue mission support, and moves personnel and cargo in the UH-60s. As a National Guard 1SG, he is responsible for 80 personnel and company staff.
After the awards were presented, Huttle offered to take the local firefighters on a tour of one of the hangars where the soldiers and technicians perform maintenance on the helicopters. He showed Apache, Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters that were in the hangar. Everyone even got to board a Chinook’s cargo area and look into the cockpit.
Huttle said Fort Indiantown Gap is the third busiest airport in the state, behind only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Public Affairs Officer NCO Sgt. Neil Gussman said that Fort Indiantown Gap will host a public open house celebrating “The Value of the National Guard” on Sept. 6 from 11 to 4. There will be displays of helicopters, tanks, trucks and historic vehicles, as well as live music by the National Guard Band of the Northeast.
Activities for children include a climbing wall and a bounce house. Food vendors will be on site. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, see gapmwr.com/openhouse.