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AL QAIM, Iraq - Lance Cpl. Daniel Nance, crash crewman with Marine Wing Support Squadron 271's Aircraft, Rescue and Fire Fighting section comes from a family of first responders. His mother, stepfather, cousin and uncle have all been emergency response personnel at some point in their lives.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Marine follows in family's footsteps, becomes first responder

20 May 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Lance Cpl. Daniel Nance, crash crewman, Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 and Lebanon, Tenn., native has been fighting fires for the Marine Corps for more than a year and a half. He has followed in his family's footsteps as an emergency responder.  

Nance’s family has deep roots in firefighting and emergency services. He has a cousin who is a paramedic; his mother was an Emergency Management Services coordinator, an uncle who was a medic in the Army during Vietnam and his stepfather is a former fire chief with 30 years of firefighting experience.

“I never thought I’d be doing this,” Nance said. “My mother always told me I should, but I always figured it was their job. It would never be mine.”

After graduating from Friendship Christian School in Lebanon, Tenn., in 2001, Nance did what many high school graduates do and began attending Volunteer State Community College in the fall of 2001.

Soon after his second semester, Nance began to feel like he was destined to do something else with his life.

“I felt like I was spinning my wheels in Lebanon,” said Nance. “I wanted to see the world and have a little adventure.”

When he chose military service, he decided he would look into the Army because of his family tradition in the service. Nance then told his mother, Leigh Sims, of his future plans.

“When I told her I was going to see the recruiter the only thing she said was ‘anything, but the Marines,’” Nance said. “I was then on my way, dead set on seeing the Army recruiter.”

On his way to the recruiting station, Nance was intercepted by a Marine Corps recruiter, Staff Sgt. Joe Caspole, who worked just down the hall from the Army recruiting office.

“I was just walking down the hallway when he shot out of his door and asked me what I was doing,” Nance said. “After a talk with him, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be a Marine.”

In March 2003, Nance began his transformation from everyday college student to United States Marine when he stepped onto the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C.

After 13 weeks of training, Nance graduated from recruit training in July 2003.

“While I was in boot camp, I gained all the things I was looking for in the Marine Corps,” Nance said. “Self discipline, honor and a strong moral character, everything the Marine Corps is about.”

After Marine Combat Training in Camp Geiger, N.C., Nance reported to the Lewis F. Garland Fire Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas.

The fire academy is a joint-service school dedicated to training the military’s firefighters in both aircraft and structural firefighting.

“Our school is mentally and physically tough,” Nance said. “It is something I thought I would never do. Firefighting was something I used to think the rest of my family did, but not me. Now I see how great a career it can be.”

After training in Texas, Nance received orders to his current unit, Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C. Since reporting in December 2003, Nance has been a valuable member of the Aircraft, Rescue and Fire Fighting team.

“Nance picks up on thing quickly,” said Cpl. Gregory Hollins, rescueman, Aircraft, Rescue and Fire Fighting. “I know I can give him a task without worrying if it’ll get taken care of.”

Soon after his arrival to Cherry Point, Nance was slated for deployment to Afghanistan, but was unable to go due to an injury. While training to receive his grey belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, Nance injured his knee.

“We were practicing hip throws when the Marine I was practicing with landed on my knee and sprained it badly,” Nance said. “I was on a limited duty status for a couple of months, just long enough to miss the deployment to Afghanistan.”

In January 2005, Nance got his opportunity to deploy when the Work Horses of MWSS-271 were sent to Iraq for a seven-month deployment.

“I’m excited about being here,” Nance said. “I feel like it is my turn to show what I can do. It is an honor to serve my country.”

Two weeks after arriving in Al Asad, home of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Nance was selected to be one of the Aircraft, Rescue and Fire Fighting Marines to work at forward operating base Al Qaim. Since arriving here, Nance and his fellow Marines have been responsible for all aircraft and structural firefighting aboard the small base. Nance has already demonstrated to his superiors his eagerness to excel on a regular basis.

“Once we had a car fire and Nance was the first to arrive on scene and had it well under control when the rest of us arrived on scene,” Hollins remarked. “Everyday he demonstrates his desire for more responsibility. During our practice drills and real emergencies he is the least of my worries. I know I can count on him.”

As Nance continues his work in Iraq, he keeps close to his friends and family, who are proud of him making a sacrifice so others can enjoy the freedoms they enjoy at home.

“I am glad to be serving my country,” Nance said. “If others can stay home, go to school and live normal lives while I serve, then that is what I want. If I’m the only one of my friends who has to join the military and fight in this war, I’ll gladly take on that responsibility.”

-For more information on this story please contact Cpl. Herron at
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