Life in the military brings lifelong bonds and family-like friendships, even if you’re physically scattered in new locations after your service.
For three South King Fire and Rescue members, their paths first crossed in the military, then again as members of the same fire department.
Firefighter Tim Gurule, 32, enlisted in the Army in 2006 and left for basic training immediately after his high school graduation.
The Colorado native attended basic infantry training in Fort Benning, Georgia. After attending airborne school, he was given a contract to try out for what is now known as the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program to be a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment special operations unit.
Gurule said he was grateful for the rare opportunity to even try out because the attrition rate is extremely high, so only a small percentage of people make it through.
Gurule was selected and sent to Fort Lewis, Washington, and served in the 2nd Ranger Battalion, which is where he met Tyrel Rose and Nate Broussard — two men who would also become South King Fire and Rescue members.
Initially, he started with Bravo Company and Rose started in Charlie company, each deploying once — Gurule to Iraq and Rose to Afghanistan — before the special operations community started up an additional company, taking individuals from the three existing companies to form Delta Company.
Gurule and Rose ended up being privates together in the challenge of the brand new company, Gurule said.
“We formed this really close friendship because we are the same rank, in the same unit, in the same brand-new company,” Gurule said, adding that he’s known Rose since they were 18 years old. “It just so happened that as time went on, we never moved.”
The two remained in the first platoon of Delta Company, attended Ranger School together, and deployed three more times together, working in the same squad and same team in certain instances.
Gurule was deployed four times in total to Iraq, Afghanistan, Baghdad and Tikrit.
After an early morning high value target raid on his fourth deployment in Tikrit, Iraq, which took a bit longer than usual, the sun was rising as the troops were riding on the Blackhawk helicopters — the usual mode of transportation.
Gurule recalls the five or so helicopters flying home in formation, sitting in the doorway with his team, legs hanging over the edge.
“I just happened to look over in the aircraft, I remember looking at my team and looking down below at the villages we were flying over and just having complete satisfaction in that moment of the task,” he said. “I remember feeling very lucky to have such a cool job with people that I love and that I cared about so much.”
The military has its ups and downs, but in that moment, surrounded by friends flying in a Blackhawk, “that was a moment I took this mental snapshot because it’s finite and it won’t be forever. I needed to cherish it.”
From sharing bedrooms on deployments, their friendship spanned far beyond the infantry field.
“Our friendship has always been extremely close,” Gurule said. After the military, Gurule finished college in Colorado while Rose pursued a firefighting career in Washington with South King Fire. When Gurule struggled to find a job after college, Rose convinced him to try out a career in firefighting. Gurule was then hired by Greeley Fire Department in Colorado, working there for about five years.
During that time, Nate Broussard and Rose, who were friends through the Ranger Regiment, had reconnected and Rose had also convinced him to test for South King Fire.
At this point, Rose — the common denominator between Gurule and Broussard and the department’s unofficial recruiter — reached out to Gurule to talk him into testing for South King Fire. An opportunity arose and Gurule was hired by SKFR in January 2020.
“All three of us are firefighters together and all three of us were in the same company on the same deployment schedule,” Gurule said. “It’s a pretty huge blessing, it’s a pretty special thing. I think about it all the time.”
“I think about ‘wow, how crazy is it going to be to walk out of a structure fire with one of these guys knowing we were in combat together, and now we’re fighting fires together, serving the community at home.’”
South King Fire is home to 57 veterans, and the Zone 3 consortium, a network of fire departments in the Puget Sound region, is an additional web of service members.
The fire career is a technical job and requires a wide spectrum of skill sets, many that transfer over from the military.
“I think overall the most important thing that we brought from the military is the ability to have a decisive plan of action in a stressful environment,” Gurule said, and not getting overwhelmed in these high-stress situations “because we have such high inoculation to those situations with the particular job that we did.”
Every member of South King Fire is highly professional, capable, and can be relied on, Gurule said. The bond carried over from a former career solidifies their protection.
“There would never be a question, even a shadow of a doubt, about their ability to get me home safely if something unthinkable happens,” he said of Broussard and Rose. “It’s like an extra layer of security and confidence.”
In the military, these people become your family and you become closer to them.
“You’re eating together, you’re sleeping together, you’re training together, you’re suffering together, you’re celebrating together,” Gurule said.
Even when there’s disagreements or tensions are at a high, “ultimately, in that moment, you’re still willing to lay down your life for that individual and that’s something that’s hard to ever replicate after [the military].”
Although his fire career is starting from square one again, Gurule said he felt he was being led to South King Fire and to be with his fellow veterans in a new form of service.
“I always knew that our paths were supposed to cross again.”