By Jacob Sturm
Cpt. Andy Willrath completed a significant accomplishment as he officially completed the National Fire Academy Managing Officer’s two-year program in recent weeks.
As part of the program, Willrath spent nearly four years working toward the accomplishment when COVID changed plans for the program shortly after Willrath started the coursework. Mustang Fire Chief, Craig Carruth, said the MFD is proud of Willrath and his accomplishment.
“If you know Andy very well, you know he’s a self-motivated guy, always into education and improving himself,” Carruth said. “Quite frankly, this is just another step. He’s always looking for areas to improve, to get extra education and this is just another avenue that was presented to him. He was able to apply for it and get accepted. We’re just very proud of him.”
Ahead of his time spent in the program, Willrath wrote down some of the goals he wanted to pursue on a goal sheet. Some of those goals included earning Executive Fire Officer through the state, completing his Associates degree, completing the Managing Officer program, earning his Bachelor’s degree and then going through the National Executive Fire Officer Program (a four-year program).
Since then, Willrath has completed his Bachelor’s degree. He said that helped a lot with the writing that came with the Managing Officer program.
The National Fire Academy Managing Officer program is one officers have to apply for with a set of educational requirements and years of experience requirements along with letters of endorsement.
The program also serves as a great way for fire departments across the country to network together.
As part of the program, Willrath completed a capstone project the Mustang Fire Department plans to implement in the Spring. Carruth mentioned that project will incorporate procedures for making critical decisions based on the tools the Fire Department has in front of them when it comes to severe weather, for setting up the Emergency Operations Center for severe weather events and training preparation for those events.
“I’m trying to develop a severe weather recognition force for first responders,” Willrath said. “And it has not been done with the NFA… Technically, a natural disaster really isn’t our thing. We’re not going to prevent it, but if we can get ahead of the game by preparing better instead of waiting to get ready for a tornado or whatever, we’re already ready for it maybe even that morning when we look at those outlooks and those watches as things start coming in. We’re ahead of the game so far that when the warning drops, it’s just a technicality. We’re already in place.”
The project would also stress how to use the tools out there currently through the National Weather Service, as well as all the apps.
Departments like Mustang’s have historically consolidated storm watch and other specific functions into the fire department’s responsibilities. Willrath’s training program included in the capstone project would address and embrace those additional responsibilities.
“I really feel like this is going to be a gamechanger type event,” Willrath said.
The work with the project just goes to show the dedication and effort Mustang’s fire department exhibits when serving the community.
“Here within our local department, we have a bunch of individuals that are dedicated not only to providing high quality service, but to be able to do that, they’re dedicated to improving themselves and going out and seeking further education to better equip them to provide the best service they can to the community,” Carruth said. “I think it’s important people realize that.”