MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
Station personnel bid retiring Fire Chief Patrick Bailey farewell as they celebrated his 34-year career at the Sonoran Pueblo here Dec. 11, 2009.
Bailey began his firefighting career in Yuma as an enlisted Marine, working at Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting in 1973.
“It was a passion, a childhood dream,” said Bailey, a native of Glendora, Miss. “I was always fascinated with the big red fire trucks and watching the firefighters going out and helping people. I wanted to get involved with it. The Marine Corps was the quickest way into the field and for me to get experience.”
He was honorably discharged as a sergeant in 1977, and became a correctional officer in Mississippi for a short time.
“The passion was still there, but my mother was ill at the time, so I went back to the South to check up on her,” said Bailey. “There were no jobs for firefighters at the time, but even when I was with the Department of Corrections, I was looking for a job in the fire service.”
Bailey was hired as a firefighter at the air station in June 1979. He steadily rose through the ranks until he became chief of the department in 2004.
More than 100 friends and colleagues gathered to share memories of Bailey at his retirement ceremony, most of which centered around his enthusiasm for the fire department, his firefighters and his mentorship.
“I know him not just as a firefighter, but as a friend and a father figure,” said Ron Hughley, station firefighter. “He always made sure his firefighters were doing good on and off duty.”
Caring about his firefighters was a staple of Bailey’s career.
“I realized he wasn’t just my fire chief. He really cares,” said Mike Batson, who succeeded Bailey as station fire chief. “He’s always only a phone call away.”
Bailey was known for his closed-door mentoring sessions, whether work related or personal.
“Marines talk about mentoring junior Marines a lot,” said Lt. Col. Mark Workman, station operations officer. “They talk, but Chief Bailey does it. That’s one thing I can take from him and use in my career.”
For many of the station’s firefighters, Bailey was the most sociable and approachable fire chief they had ever worked for.
“He was really personable,” said Don Phillips, station fire captain. “He would listen and relate to you, even at the firefighter level. Not all chiefs are like that.”
Bailey’s contributions to the station fire department were also felt in the Yuma community.
Under Bailey’s leadership, the City of Yuma has enjoyed the strongest mutual aid it has ever had between any Department of Defense or municipal area agency, said assistant fire Chief Dennis Light, Yuma Fire Department’s operations chief.
“They provide immediate aid to the city, all of the time,” said Light.
Even with all of his accolades and accomplishments, Bailey felt it was time to retire.
“I have no more to give, and I have no regrets,” said Bailey. “It’s not hard to stay with something you love and care about for so long.”
Bailey said he couldn’t ask for a better staff, which he trusts a lot, and thanked them for their hard work.
Bailey also pointed out that his biggest supporter was his wife, Joeann.
“She always encouraged me to keep going,” said Bailey.
One of Bailey’s main goals was to make the station's fire department a well-known and respected agency. That goal was achieved in 2007, when the station fire department was named the DoD Fire Department of the Year in the small agency category.
Bailey plans on staying in Yuma and enjoying retirement by spending time with his family in Tennessee and Idaho.