Burning Bright: Suffolk native named 2023 Marine Corps Fire and Emergency Services Fire Officer of the Year.

Published 11:53 pm Friday, May 3, 2024

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Story and Photo by Sgt. Brandon Aultman

Along the vast, sun-bathed tarmac of Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay stands a lone fire station, readily awaiting the call to action. It is here that Gunnery Sgt. David Waterfield, Jr. has made his mark as the training chief for MCAS Kaneohe Bay Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF). Waterfield’s commitment to excellence has not only earned him respect in the eyes of his peers but also organizational-wide recognition as the 2023 Marine Corps Fire and Emergency Services Fire Officer of the Year.

“The ARFF training section is responsible for conducting, scheduling and properly maintaining records for all Firefighting, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and Marine Corps related training events,” Waterfield explains, “This includes sending Marines to advanced schools, professional military education, and conducting joint training with other sister services.”

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As the training chief, Waterfield oversees these programs and ensures seamless coordination with other sections and agencies.

Receiving the Fire Officer of the Year award left Waterfield feeling both grateful and humbled. “I didn’t get to this point alone,” he declares, recognizing the collective effort of all the Marines under his department. In 2023, Waterfield became the first Marine to graduate from the Air Force EMS Instructor course, making him the first Marine to do so since the course’s introduction in 2018. After completing this course, Waterfield created the first-ever Marine Corps Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Emergency Medical Services program, establishing MCAS Kaneohe Bay’s ARFF as a groundbreaking example to others in the community.

“We established the first program last year,” he proudly states. “Since then, four other ARFF units have also established their own respective programs.”

Despite his achievements, Waterfield constantly calls attention to the efforts of others in his community. He states, “There are a lot of Marines across our community that are innovative and working hard to create solutions for the betterment of our Marines.”

When asked about his philosophy for becoming a good leader, Waterfield emphasized the importance of always putting Marines first.

“To be an effective leader, you must understand that it isn’t about you,” he reflects. “You must be selfless by your actions, dependable, resilient and a positive influence on those around you.”

Born and raised in Suffolk, Waterfield attributes part of his current success to the wisdom instilled by his parents. “They taught me many valuable lessons growing up, such as remaining humble, helping those around me, and having a constant and driven work ethic,” he recalls. He also highlighted his wife and children as a positive influence in both his personal and professional life.

Looking ahead, Waterfield aspires to become a warrant officer. He sees it as yet another opportunity to lead, inspire, and work hard for his Marines. “I also want to continue furthering my education and complete my bachelor’s degree,” he shares, illustrating his commitment to personal growth.

Waterfield’s journey embodies the epitome of a Marine leader, scholar, and warrior. He continues to push the envelope with innovative training programs and stands as an example to those around him.

“I am forever grateful for the positive leaders that I have had in my life over the last thirteen years,” he concludes. “The men and women that have positively affected me continue to inspire me to be a good servant to others.”