AF officer strives to make local community a better place

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Magen M. Reeves
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Some Airmen only wear one suit -- they have one job and are comfortable doing it their entire careers.

1st Lt. Anthony Perkins, a 490th Missile Squadron intercontinental ballistic missile combat crew commander, however, wears three different suits.

By day, he wears his U.S. Air Force flight suit as an ICBM missileer. He helps maintain the nation’s nuclear deterrence mission by pulling a 24-hour alert shift in a capsule in the missile field.

In his spare time, he dons another suit as a volunteer firefighter.

Perkins’ shift as a volunteer firefighter starts with a 40-minute drive down a long dirt road past the airport, peppered with few homes and buildings. The only indication of the location of the Great Falls Gore Hill Volunteer Fire Department is one lonely street light.

After checking in, Perkins and his fellow volunteers spend about an hour training and conducting change-over in a small meeting room with mismatched tables and chairs.

Part of his nightly routine begins by opening compartments of the fire truck, checking equipment to ensure it’s in place. His uniform is organized in his locker so it takes mere minutes to put on.

When finished, Perkins finally heads home for the evening to remain on-call through the night.

His third suit is black cargo pants and a blue long-sleeved shirt identifying him as an emergency medical technician for Great Falls Emergency Services.

On his days off from missileer duties, Perkins can be found pulling 12 to 24 hour shifts on an ambulance. Some shifts are busy with request calls coming in one after another. An alarm beeps in succession to alert responders to load up the ambulance and head to the scene, sirens blaring.

Since March 2015, Perkins has spent thousands of hours providing critical emergency services throughout Cascade County.

When asked about what he does in his free time, Perkins said with a laugh, “that is my free time.”

Some people couldn’t imagine wearing three suits. For Perkins, however, it’s just another day in his life.

Originally from Lawton, Michigan, Perkins said becoming a first responder was never a question.

“I come from a family of first responders,” said Perkins. “Four generations of my family have been police officers, firefighters or first responders.”

Dedicating himself to being certified as a first responder for the fire department and as an EMT was no easy task.

He accomplished 50 hours of certification for both the fire department and as an EMT, has a Montana State EMT license and is certified with the National Registry of EMTs.

Senior Airman Andrew Ritton, 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron convoy response force member, remembers what the class was like.

“I went through EMT class at the same time as (Perkins),” said Ritton. “That class was probably the most difficult one I’ve ever had to take. It was long and intense, from about August to December, but it was worth it.”

Perkins and Ritton have been working together as EMTs since December 2015.

“He’s a great guy to work with,” said Ritton. “He knows his stuff and takes being an EMT and firefighter very seriously. He will get back from the missile field after pulling a 24-hour alert at 2 p.m. and be on shift on the ambulance by 5 p.m. for 24 hours.”

Perkins demonstrates the same level of commitment to being a first responder as he does being a missileer.

“Perkins is my mentor,” said 1st Lt. Justin Buda, 490th ICBM deputy combat crew commander, who has been working with Perkins for the last five months.

Buda pulls alert with Perkins more often than not and is the junior officer.

“Not all senior officers equate to being mentors,” said Buda. “However, it is a testament to Perkins’ personality and operational proficiency that I consider him an exceptional mentor.”

Both Buda and Ritton said they enjoy having Perkins as a partner in their respective fields.

“He and I get to work together outside of the Air Force,” said Ritton. “I’m enlisted and he’s an officer. It’s cool that I get the opportunity to know him personally and work with him that I probably wouldn’t get otherwise.”

In September, Perkins received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, which is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who perform outstanding volunteer community service that has a direct impact on the wellness of the community.

Perkins remains modest and humble about his good deeds and his service to the community.

In the past three months, Perkins provided more than 300 hours of medical service for Cascade County during which he performed life-saving CPR on two separate occasions and responded to 36 emergency calls, seven of which were trauma patients.

He also responded to a local wildfire during that time period.

“Sometimes we will talk about what he does as an EMT or firefighter, but not often,” said Buda. “He doesn’t like to be recognized, he’s very humble. I think it’s commendable; being a missileer who gives so much back to the community. He really likes what he does.”

In most cases, first responders do not see themselves as heroes, they’re just doing their job.

“I don’t do it for fame or glory, it’s not about that for me,” said Perkins “For me, doing what I do fulfills me outside of work and it enables me to give back as much as I can. I help people on their worst days. It’s what I do.”