Meet Jason Koffarnus, a firefighter with South King Fire & Rescue, and a chief warrant officer 2 and UH60 Blackhawk pilot in the Washington Army National Guard.
Koffarnus recently hit a major milestone in his career by achieving 20 years of military service this past August and just prior, finished his apprenticeship with SKFR.
Where are you currently stationed and where is your upcoming deployment to? When?
I am currently in Fort Hood, Texas, doing pre-deployment training and upon completion we will be deployed to the Balkans in Eastern Europe to provide Aeromedical evacuation support to UN Multi-National forces and the host country nation.
How did you get into both of these careers? What was your journey?
I joined the Army at 20 years old to serve my country and gain life experience and an education. After a deployment to Iraq in 2004-05, I competed and was selected to go to Army flight school XXI in late 2007. I graduated in 2009 and was assigned to an Aeromedical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopter company with the NV Army National Guard. This is where I learned to be a MEDEVAC pilot and about the medical field. Most of the medics in my company worked as firefighters and paramedics for their civilian careers and it intrigued me, as it was impressive what these guys could do medically in the back of an aircraft. My family and I moved to Washington in 2013, where I transferred to the Washington Army National Guard and served in an Air Assault company. This is when I started testing to become a firefighter myself and found it a very competitive career to get selected. In 2017, after three interviews with South King Fire & Rescue, they gave me the opportunity to go to the fire academy and work as a firefighter for their organization. Upon completion of the academy, we have several tasks to complete through a three-year apprenticeship program. In 2019, I have been transferred into Washington’s MEDEVAC company and ever since have been very fortunate to serve in the capacity I have been for both organizations.
Why did you choose careers of service?
I’ve always wanted to do something bigger than myself and the Army seemed like a good start to give me direction, which ultimately led me to the fire service, and I love both careers.
What does being a first responder mean to you?
It is very rewarding being a first responder, being able to help the community that I serve. There are so many variables that can happen in a person’s life and when someone calls 911, and they are usually calling you on their worst day and we show up to help and get to put our training to work. One of the best parts are working as a crew trying to make a difference, especially if you save someone’s life.
When you look back on your years so far as a firefighter, what memory stands out?
Being new to the fire service, several emergency scenes stand out since everything is new to you and you have a lot of firsts. First structure fire, first major car wreck, first CPR all stick out to me, but what really stands out is how fluid and structured these scenes can be due to our training and the professionals I get to work with in our organization.