KENNETH DURDUN (SFD): PROUD TO BE A PART OF A TEAM THAT HAS SO MUCH IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY.
“I’ve never had a bad reaction,” said Firefighter/paramedic Kenneth Durdun, “when I tell people I’m a firefighter.” Durdun believes “There’s a certain mystique to the profession,” and he immediately senses an element of trust and respect for his occupation. “It’s not everybody’s job,” he added, “when you have the potential to make an impact in an emergency or make a child smile.”
Durdun became interested in firefighting when he was having a home built in 1993 in Paulding County. The builder had gathered up scraps of material and set them afire—then left the scene. A brush fire erupted. Durdun just happened to arrive at the house to check on the builder’s progress; he saw the fire and called the fire department, which was manned by volunteers. After the volunteers extinguished the fire, they all got to talking about firefighting. Soon Durdun became a volunteer firefighter himself for the small community.Till on the job today, Durdun’s a 16-year veteran, with about 1-1/2 years in Smyrna. Durdun’s enthusiasm for his job still shows. “Each upward step in my career, whether it is a new certification or completing training on a specific piece of equipment is exciting to me,” he explained with a grin. He’s proud to be part of a team “that can have so much impact on a person or a community.” He looks forward each day to “seeing a need and trying to provide for it.”
One such need Durdun sees is the importance of Fire Safety Education for children, another aspect of his job that he enjoys. He likes that he’s instrumental in helping children become acquainted with firefighters and what to do in an emergency. When he’s called to a fire where children are involved, he understands that “They’re scared enough already.” And, he said, he doesn’t want them “to be scared of the firefighters, too.”
Durdun lives on a private lake and unwinds from his job by spending a lot of time on the lake with his wife of 23 years and his 3 children, skiing or just “hanging out on the dock.” He also enjoys “putting a hundred miles or so in the rearview mirror of my motorcycle.”
Durdun is grateful for the support of the Smyrna Public Safety Foundation (SPSF) and its community outreach programs, the annual holiday “Shop with a Hero” program for area underprivileged children, and with funds that help injured or disabled firefighters.
Thank you Firefighter Durdun for your enthusiasm and involvement in our community.
By Karen Carter
Meet SFD Hero Brannon Whatley: “A career in the Fire Service is rewarding.”
When asked what attracted him to a career as a firefighter, Brannon Whatley responded that “the team-oriented atmosphere while helping a community in keeping safe led me to begin and enjoy a career in public safety.” Like many “heroes” in the Smyrna Fire Department, Whatley, too, finds immense job satisfaction in knowing he plays a role in protecting his community. The ethic of “service” runs deep within the SFD.
Whatley’s proud to serve as a firefighter. He understands that frequently firefighters encounter people at some of the worse times of their lives, and he appreciates when “Citizens acknowledge your dedication and hard work in helping them during emergency situations.” Whatley has been a firefighter for 6 years, with about 4 years inSmyrna. His training includes a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences and certification as a Paramedic and Hazmat Technician.
Like many Smyrna firefighters and police officers, Whatley, too, appreciates what the Smyrna Public Safety (SPSF) does for the Fire and Police Departments and the community at large. One of the most important programs the SPSF provides, in Whatley’s estimation, is the benevolent fund that helps sick and injured public safety workers.
And another of his favorite programs funded by the SPSF is the annual holiday “Shop with a Hero” day.Smyrnafire and police “heroes” take area disadvantaged children to lunch and then shopping at local retailers. With funds provided by the SPSF, these children, with the officers’ help, purchase items for themselves and their families. Such is the economic situation of many of these children that they happily buy themselves toothpaste, toiletries, school supplies, and other necessary items that are beyond their families’ budgets. They also frequently buy gifts for themselves and their families to brighten what might otherwise be a dreary holiday season. Both the children and Smyrna’s police and fire “heroes” enjoy this outing, which would not be possible without the SPSF.
Whatley concluded by observing that “A career in the Fire Service is rewarding. It has led to building a second family, meeting great people and having close friends.”
Thank you, Firefighter Whatley, for your commitment in serving and protecting this community.
By Karen Carter
Meet SPD “Hero” Corporal Anthony Montrose who says “Smyrna suits me just fine.”
Support Corporal Montrose and all of Smyrna’s fire, police, and safety employees at this year’s Smyrna Heroes Gala on 9.8.12 at historic Brawner Hall on Atlant
a Road. Get tickets here or atwww.SmyrnaHeroesGala.com
. Meanwhile, meet one of the SPD’s finest, Corporal Anthony Montrose:
“Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a police officer,” reported Anthony Montrose of the SPD. “I just couldn’t see myself in a cubicle.” He couldn’t face “the same thing everyday”; instead it’s the unknown that attracts him, the potential for something different happening every day. “I don’t like the mundane,” he commented. And rather than being cooped up in an office, he prefers being outside. “The heat, the cold, they don’t bother me,” he said, adding, after a pause, “Well, the rain does.”
As a corporal with the SPD, Montrose “looks after the younger guys.” SPD supervisors rely on the corporals to monitor and direct critical situations, calling the detectives out and keeping their fingers on the pulse of the SPD.
“The training never stops,” Montrose said. “Things are changing all the time; there’s new case law” that requires rethinking current police policies and considering new ones. Just about every factor that affects the law, can affect the SPD, Montrose observed, all the way from Supreme Court decisions to interdepartmental SPD guidelines.
A 20-year veteran, Montrose has been with the SPD 17 years. His previous training includes 11 years in the army military police, with missions in both Greece and Germany, locations that spurred his interest in travel. Before Montrose came to the SPD, he was also 3 years with the MARTA force, but decided “that wasn’t the kind of policing I wanted to do.” Smyrna suits him just right, he observed.
Montrose likes his solitude to unwind. His policy on his down time? “Don’t bring the job home; you have to get away from it.” He reads avidly, bikes on the Silver Comet trail, watches television, goes to the movies, travels. “I deal with people all day,” he reported, “so I like to spend time with myself.”
Thank you, Corporal Montrose, for being a part of our community.
By Karen Carter
Chad Almond, SPD Hero, 9-1-1 System Coordinator: “If I can’t fix it, I make sure to get it fixed.”
Chad Almond came to Smyrna’s Police Department fresh out of high school 24 years ago. Over those years he has seen many changes in the way the SPD handles 9-1-1 calls and all the technical aspects of communications within the Department. He’s the 911 Systems Coordinator, a position he worked up to over the years and, in some respects, actually built for himself as technological improvements both increased and complicated communications for the Department.
He started as a Dispatcher. “I was always nosey,” he explained. “If something didn’t work, I tried to fix it.” Over the years he became better and better at fixing problems, which led to his position of being responsible for the technical aspects of the communication systems and making sure they work. His responsibilities run the gamut of the SPD from 911 calls to internal communications to the mobile terminals in the individual mobile units and beyond.
He loves his job, and it shows. His face lights up as he talks about the many changes he’s experienced and worked with over the last 24 years. Getting outside technical support when he needs it is probably his biggest frustration. “I don’t like having a problem in front of me that I can’t resolve,” he reported; and he hates to wait on someone else’s time schedule for addressing the problem. So he watches and learns when he must call IT in to help, and the next time he sees that problem, “I can fix it and save the City a few bucks.”
He enjoys working with the various officers and their complaints about the system. “First I have to recognize what [the officers’] abilities are,” he explained, “and go from there” in resolving the issues they bring to his attention. He explains to them “what the system can do” and how the officer can use it.
Almond is solidly connected to the community and has a long history of donating his time and talents to different causes. He organizes charity events, for example, particularly motorcycle rides to benefit injured officers, to fight cancer, Huntington’s disease, and other notable causes. He’s currently working on 2 different rides. “I get caught up in the middle, the excitement of people coming together,” he reported. “I want to help people in their times of need.”
Thank you Chad Almond for your boundless enthusiasm and skills in helping our community.
By Karen Carter
Officer Chris Graeff (SPD): Helping others in need.
“I’ve been interested in becoming a police officer since my early teens,” saod Chris Graeff. “When I was 13, I thought it was a really cool job,” he continued. “You can drive fast and carry a gun.” As he matured, however, he learned that being a police officer meant much more. Police officers frequently encounter people at one of
the worse times in their lives, and as Graeff commented, “I can help people who truly need help.”
Graeff came to the Smyrna PD about a year ago. He finds rewards in his career. He offered an example that occurred at his previous posting withCobbCounty: he arrested an individual who later actually thanked him for the arrest. This arrest involved a call Graeff answered about a man and women actively fighting, both aggressors in the situation. As he learned, the woman also battled an alcohol problem. He arrested both individuals, and the woman was subsequently sentenced to some jail time. While in jail, she sobered up. Upon her release she started attending meetings for her alcohol addiction. Later, Graeff was on a call in her neighborhood on an unrelated matter. The woman recognized Graeff, approached him, and thanked him for arresting her. It was the start on her road to sobriety; a much-needed (and appreciated, as it turned out) wake-up call.
To maintain balance in his life, Graeff requires a “clear separation between my personal and professional lives.” His 4-year old daughter is a key factor in that separation. They spend time going to the park, kid’s museums, and the zoo. “I forget about everything else,” he said. “Making her happy is my #1 priority.”
Groeff’s 1000+ hours of training include training in DUIs, interviews and interrogations, and LIDAR (speed detection device). He also has Active Shooter and Advanced Firearms Training. He’s trained in CPR, commenting that people may be surprised to learn “how many times police officers come upon a medical situation.” He looks forward to earning a position with more responsibility, perhaps federally, perhaps in investigation such as robbery/homicide.
Welcome to our community, Officer Graeff, and thank you for bringing your skills to the SPD.
By Karen Carter
Hero Barbara Johnson (SPD), 911 Supervisor: Answering the Call
Barbara Johnson, 911 Supervisor, has seen a lot of action in her 29 years of service. She’s been with the Smyrna PD for 12 years, answering 911 calls and directing the action that addresses those calls. Hers can be a stressful job. Her husband is a police officer, so between them, they certainly understand that stress is an integral part of their respective jobs.
“You just have to handle it,” Johnson reports. Her job is unpredictable; sometimes she fields “hundreds of calls” an hour; other times maybe only 10-15. “It just depends on what happens.” Not everyone can handle the stressors of this high-pressure position. In fact, some dispatchers left after only one shift, despite intensive training in preparation for the position.
Johnson has proven time and again that she can handle the position. In fact, one of her proudest moments as a 911 dispatcher came when she worked for the Illinois State Police fielding 2 sets of calls: one channel dealing with an air pursuit, and a second channel handling a completely separate ground pursuit. “I’ve always been really good at my job,” she explained when asked about the difficulty of dealing so capably with 2 entirely different circumstances and officers throughout the course of the pursuits. “I took it in stride.” Both cases were resolved successfully, she concluded: “We got them both.” She was rewarded for her efforts with a nomination for Dispatcher of the Year.
Johnson draws upon her 29 years of service when she observes, “Crime isn’t what it used to be. It’s much worse now.” She sees more armed robberies, more homicides and home invasions. To relax, she and her police-officer husband “do everything together,” from quietly relaxing in at home, their refuge from the stress, to going to movies and traveling together. They look forward to retirement in a few years when they’ll move toFlorida.
Thank you, Supervisor Johnson, for answering our calls.
By Karen Carter
Officer Eric Smith (SPD) connected to the Smyrna Community
“I’ve noticed a shift since 9/11,” Eric Smith observed. “It seems more people come up and say ‘Hi’ than previously.” The SPD is “close knit,” he said, and it feels a deep “relationship with the community.” This sense of community is reinforced, therefore, when “random people” greet him, and he is appreciative of the community’s efforts on his behalf.
As a child, Smith frequently visited relatives in Maine, where he had a police officer uncle. The excitement of the job interested him, and “catching bad guys seemed like fun.” Smith’s uncle allowed him to drive the police car at about 8 years old and he also “played with the lights and sirens.” His interest blossomed from there. Smith has been a police officer for over 11 years now with 7 years of service in Smyrna.
Smith looked forward to the 2011 Smyrna Auction for Heroes Gala on 9.10.11. Unlike his day-to-day experiences dealing with the public, the Gala “allows us to meet the community at a good time, having fun.” Proceeds benefit the SPSF and the many programs and services it funds, and “In these bad economic times,” Smith observed, “any dollars are appreciated.” The community involvement behind the Gala impressed Smith: “We know the community cares, and it’s good to see that.”
“I’m a spiritual person,” Smith says. His faith, family, and fellow police officers sustain him when he experiences what he calls “shocks to the conscience,” particularly horrific experiences such as the death of a child. “We see people at the worst time in their lives,” he adds, and “faith that everything will be ok” is a crucial aspect of him getting through these times.
Smith was Rookie of the Year for 2003-04, and his training includes as a POST Certified General Instructor, POST Certified Field Training Officer, POST Certified Peace Officer, POST Certified Jailor, and Certified Jail Tactical Response Team training.
Thank you, Officer Smith, for being an important part of our community.
By Karen Carter
A Story of Gratitude for SPD Officer Michael Smith
It’s an unfortunate aspect of police work that “90% of the time we deal with the 10% of the populace that causes trouble,” says Michael Smith. “We give people tickets; we arrest them and take them to jail,” he continues. “So it’s a rare moment when someone comes up and thanks us.” UnlikeSmyrnafirefighters who frequently receive kudos from grateful residents,Smyrnapolice officers may spend their shifts in an atmosphere of suspicion and hostility.
But such is not always the case. Smith recalls an incident that took place one Christmas season: “It’s our goal,” he relates, “to get through the holiday season without someone’s door being kicked in and all the residents’ money and gifts stolen.” But that’s exactly what happened one Christmas Eve day when aSmyrnafamily was absent from their home. The family was devastated and called the police, but the officers could do little for the family at that time other than take the report.
Back at the station after investigating the break-in, the officers involved that day, including Smith, passed the hat and were able to collect $500 from officers on duty. They went shopping for the kids, buying presents, and even had some money left over to give to the parents to help with their holiday celebration. But the story doesn’t end there.
About 8 months later, Smith was called to aSmyrnaschool for a disturbance. As he was investigating, he noticed a little girl hanging around him. He smiled at her, and she said, “You don’t remember me, do you Officer Smith?” He responded, “No, sweetie, I’m sorry, I don’t. Where did we meet?” As soon as she started telling him of a Christmas Eve break-in, he immediately remembered the situation. He asked her, “Did you have a good Christmas.” She smiled and responded, “Yes, I did. Thank you.”
This unexpectedly brightened his day. “It’s refreshing,” Smith relates. “As police officers we sometimes get jaded. But when someone does come up and thank you, it reminds you that the community is behind you.”
He sums up the experience by observing, “It’s why we do what we do.”
Here’s another well-deserved thanks: Thank you, Officer Smith, for contributing so much to our community both professionally and personally.
(Note: Smith wears several hats for the SPD. He’s the SPD Crime Prevention Officer, Public Information Officer, Grants Manager, and is also reorganizing the Department’s Neighborhood Watch Program.)
By Karen Carter
Hero” Profile #15: Gene Crawford (SPD):
Déjà vu all over again Gene Crawford knew he wanted to become a police officer was he was only 2-years old. His mom was at work, and his dad was babysitting him . . . not too well as it turned out. The front door was unlocked, and Crawford wandered outside and down the road. CobbCountypolice officers found him about a mile away from his home. Although he wasn’t old enough to know his address, he was able to direct the officers to his home. When they pulled up, Crawford’s father was outside, searching frantically. “That’s my dad!” said Crawford. When his mother arrived home, Crawford told her, “I want to be a cop and carry a big gun!” He never looked back. He’s been with the SPD for 28 years now and is a Corporal in the Motors Division. Obviously he has matured from that 2-year-old once fascinated by the “big gun”; now he focuses on makingSmyrnasafe. “I enjoy being able to help people by doing what I do,” he said. “I make it safer for people to live in and travel through the City.” He’s also involved in traffic analysis, working problem zones, and addressing violations complaints from neighborhoods in the community. Oddly enough, Crawford had a déjà-vu experience a few years ago. A neighbor called in a police report about an unattended child wandering her neighborhood. Crawford responded, found the child, and, as in his own experience, the child directed him home. When Crawford knocked on the door with the child in hand, he woke the mother, still asleep with an unlocked front door. Mother and child were reunited, and Crawford’s own experience as a child came full circle. Crawford is an avid motorcyclist; he’s been riding since he was 16. His wife of 31 years also rides, and one way the couple unwinds is by riding in the mountains. Favorite trips involve riding the mountains in North Georgia,Tennessee,Mississippi,Arkansas, andNorth Carolina. They can be gone for hours, days, or weeks. They don’t camp out on the longer trips, though. “My wife wants a comfy bed and a hot tub,” said Crawford with a grin, “after a long day’s ride.” Crawford’s training includes as a Field Training Officer, Lidar (Laser) and Radar Operator, First Responder, Child Passenger Safety Seat Specialist, and as a Crisis Intervention Team Member with additional training in defensive driving and accident avoidance. Thank you, Corporal Crawford, for making our community safer. By Karen Carter
“Hero” Engineer Tommy Bates (SFD) “Firefighters save more than human lives.”
Tommy Bates had a friend in the Army National Guard who was a firefighter, and this friend told Bates he had “the right disposition for the job.” What is the “right disposition”? Bates explains: “Most firefighters will tell you it’s a calling.” Firefighters, he believes, have a certain “willingness to help” combined with elements of the “adrenaline junky,” a need to be “where the action is, in the middle of it all.” Bates has been “in the middle of it” for 11 years now, all of it with the SFD as a Firefighter, Fire Instructor, and EMT Paramedic.
Firefighters also have to be willing and able to “push yourself as hard as you can,” he reports. They work 24-hour shifts for the SFD. “We may sit around for 20 hours,” he says, waiting for the call. But when it comes, they have to be ready for the next intense 4 hours.
One such occasion involved an apartment complex on fire. “It was a bad fire,” he recalls, “and the building was not stable.” The team saw a panicked, anxious dog on the balcony of one of the apartments involved in the fire. “But we had to stabilize the situation first,” he says, “before we could address the threat to the dog.”
When he was able to approach the dog, he realized that the team didn’t have the equipment necessary to rescue the dog safely. The dog catcher was called and was asked to bring that equipment. While waiting, Bates kept the dog calm and the smoke away from it. When the proper equipment arrived, Bates corralled the animal and led it to safety. Firefighters save more than human lives from harm.
Bates appreciates the community’s efforts in putting on the Smyrna Auction for Heroes Gala fundraiser forSmyrna’s Public Safety Employees. “Smyrna police officers and firefighters love to show our respect and dedication to the citizens ofSmyrna,” he says, “and here is another way to show it.” That respect and dedication surely goes both ways as residents and businesses gather on 9.10.11 to honor, support, and celebrate our own community’s “heroes,” one of them being Tommy Bates.
The funds generated for the SPSF from the Gala will “assist fellow public safety workers in their time of need,” he says. He’s not talking about himself. Recently, he’s seen a number of public safety employees with medical and financial issues, and “this money will help them a great deal.”
Support our ‘heroes’ by supporting the Smyrna Auction for Heroes Gala. If you haven’t already purchased your tickets, you can do so at www.SmyrnaHeroesGala.com
By Karen Carter