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NEWS | Aug. 3, 2023

Tobyhanna firefighter selected to prestigious FEMA urban search and rescue task force

By Mr. Nicolo Manzo and Ms. Danielle Weinschenk

A member of Tobyhanna Army Depot‘s (TYAD’S) Fire and Emergency Services (F&ES) team has earned a coveted position on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Pennsylvania (PA) Task Force 1.

Firefighter Matthew Miller will serve as a Rescue Specialist on the task force, which is sponsored by the City of Philadelphia Fire Department and is comprised of experts in search, rescue, medicine, hazardous materials, logistics and planning, structural engineering, and canine search procedures.

Urban search and rescue task forces can be deployed by FEMA to a disaster area to aid in structural collapse rescue, or they may be pre-positioned when a major disaster threatens a community. In recent years, PA Task Force 1 has deployed to support communities after Hurricanes Ida, Sally and Wilfred as well as to conduct rescue operations after the Surfside condominium collapse. The task force may be deployed overseas for humanitarian missions as well.

From an early age, Miller knew he wanted to give back to his community by serving as a firefighter. After observing his uncle’s work in fire service, he knew it was something he wanted to do.

“My chief motivation to get involved in fire service was the idea of giving back. When things go wrong, people look to you to make things right. I wanted to be able to help people on their worst day,” said Miller.

He also added that the family-like camaraderie offered an opportunity to serve a noble cause while being a part of a supportive group.

At just 13 years old, Miller got his working papers to serve as a junior volunteer firefighter in Nesquehoning, PA, before becoming a senior firefighter at 18. Miller’s career as a volunteer firefighter spans 20 years.

Prior to joining Team Tobyhanna, Miller wore several hats in the emergency services field, including 911 dispatcher, Police Communications Officer for PA State Police and full-time firefighter at Harrisburg International Airport. These diverse career opportunities exposed him to several different environments, which he credits with helping make him a more well-rounded emergency services professional.

Miller set into motion the process of reaching his goal of making PA Task Force 1 in 2020 and joined Team Tobyhanna shortly after in December 2021 – adding to his already-full slate of fire service activities, including a new assignment as an adjunct instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy.

To earn his position on the team Miller underwent intense training, which included a two-week course at the Virginia Beach Fire Academy, sponsored by Virginia Task Force 2 FEMA team. During the training, which earned Miller the sought-after FEMA structural collapse rescue technician certification, students must work in all types of weather conditions during mock training scenarios. Skills exercised during the course include repelling, vertical shoring, horizontal shoring, metal cutting, and victim assessment.

TYAD’s Assistant Fire Chief Steven Chervenitski noted that being on the team is the equivalent of being an all-star firefighter.

“Very few people are selected for PA Task Force 1. We are very proud of Matthew’s accomplishment,” he said, adding that the depot will greatly benefit from the experience Miller has and will gain as part of the task force.

“Matthew freely shares the knowledge he’s learned from his task force service and training with his colleagues here at Tobyhanna, heightening the skills and abilities of our entire team.”

Miller says his career achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his leadership.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of Chief Gebhardt, Chief Chervenitski and my good friend Warren ‘Chop’ Humphrey – as well as the team here,” noting that two very special people played a key role in his overall success.

“My parents, Mary and Dale, have always supported and encouraged me to chase my dreams,” he said. “I owe them a huge thank you.”

Connecting with the community through mutual aid aligns with Tobyhanna’s long-range strategic plan, TOBY2035. The plan, which has four focus areas, aims to posture the organization for the year 2035. Tobyhanna has mutual aid agreements with agencies across Northeastern Pennsylvania, enabling the depot’s private firefighters to assist the community during public emergencies.

TYAD is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna’s Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C5ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.

Tobyhanna’s unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, postproduction software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our joint warfighters.

About 3,200 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command’s mission is to empower the Soldier with winning C5ISR capabilities.