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Kitsap County deputy fire marshal back after 3-year military stint
For three years and three days, Craig Hanson was away from his position as a Kitsap County deputy fire marshal.
But last month, Hanson returned to the job he loves.
Since November 2009, the 44-year-old Hanson served in various capacities with the Washington Army National Guard.
Hanson was called up to serve as an advisor to Iraq’s Ministry of Interior for the Iraqi Fire Service and Iraq’s national Emergency Operations Center. He was sent to a small base in Iraq called JSS Shield, a base with 1,000 people — with only 200 uniformed soldiers.
“Our job was to, every day, go to the Interior Building,” Hanson said. “I actually had three jobs while I was there. We were there during the elections and we were really busy.”
One of his assignments was working with the Iraqi national command center and assist them setting up an Incident Command System (ICS) and teach them how to report things.
His second responsibility was teaching at the Bagdad police college and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) unit in Iraq to establish an investigations class for fires.
“The Iraqi (people) were not very keen on that class, but we got the ball rolling for the people to follow,” he said. “They were given a lot of money to buy equipment and to do training. It was one of my jobs to help the Iraqi general in charge of the fire department how to spend his money wisely.”
In addition to those duties, Hanson was also assigned as the Force Protection non-commissioned officer in charge of the base.
“While in charge there, I got to put a mutiny down,” Hanson said.
He said about 500 armed guards from Sierra Leone were contracted to guard the post.
“The guards weren’t very happy because their government was stealing their money,” he explained. “They (government) wasn’t paying them or their families. So they refused to work.”
Hanson and his staff had to put down the mutiny and find replacements.
“We had a one-star admiral commanding a tower, at one point,” Hanson said.
In November 2010, when Kitsap County was facing budget shortfall, Hanson said he decided to remain active with the National Guard longer, so he could “help other people keep their jobs.”
He served as the operations sergeant major for the National Guard’s new and experimental Homeland Response Force, a 500-person unit which responds to chemical, biological and all-hazard events that overwhelmed local authorities. Ohio is the only other state with a HRF unit.
Hanson and his team were responsible for preparing the training, certification of people and overseeing large scale exercises for the unit and civil authorities.
Since his unit was based in Seattle, Hanson was able to commute from home — except when he was traveling around the world with the National Guard.
Hanson joined the Marines in 1986 and after the Gulf War decide to leave.
“I still liked the military, so I decided to join the Washington Army National Guard,” Hanson said.
He has more than 26 years in the military.
Hanson’s first Iraq tour was with the 161st Infantry of the state’s National Guard from 2003 to 2005 as a platoon sergeant. After his return, he was promoted to infantry first sergeant and serves with the 144th Digital Liaison Detachment, a unit that helps bridge the gap between Army and foreign governments.
Hanson was awarded a Bronze Star for service in 2004 and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his recent service in Iraq.
“My job with the National Guard is very rewarding and I learned a lot,” Hanson said. “But I love working here for the county. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”
Hanson and his family reside in Vaughn.