Captain/Shift Training Officer Robert “Bob” Decker will retire from Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Department on July 13 after 27 years of service.
Decker began his career with the department as a Firefighter in July 1987. “I was working construction, but I desired something with more stability,” said Decker. “I went to MFD Headquarters to inquire about a position and was thrilled when I got the opportunity.”
He was promoted to Driver in 1990, Captain in 1999, and Captain/Shift Training Officer in 2007.
Decker has been an active member of several of the department’s committees including the Training Facility Assessment and Planning Committee, the Fire Apparatus Specifications Committee, the General Order Committee, and the Citizens Fire Academy. Serving on the Training Assessment and Planning Committee, Decker was very instrumental in developing plans for MFRD’s future training facility. He was hoping he would see it materialize before he left, but said, “When it is built, I’ll be the first to stop by and check it out.”
Throughout his career, he has volunteered a lot of his time to coaching MFRD’s teams for both the Tennessee Ultimate Firefighting Challenge and the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge. Under his leadership, the teams have brought home several victories. In fact, in MFRD’s first-ever Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge in 2013, the team placed fifth overall against twenty other departments from the southeastern region. The team also made it to the national competition.
In 2013, Decker was named “Noon Exchange Club Firefighter of the Year.” In his nomination letter, Chief Cumbey Gaines wrote, “To say that Bob has proven to be a valuable asset to the department may be an understatement. Though he is modest, he cannot hide the fact that he has had many accomplishments in his career with MFRD.”
When asked what he felt the biggest change over the span of his career was, Decker simply remarked, “Everything.” He continued, “When I started with the department, we rode on the back of the engine, we didn’t wear air packs, and you may be going into a fire by yourself; it’s a lot safer now.” Decker also said that fire suppression was the only service offered by the department when he was hired. “Now, we are providing most every service out there,” he said. “It’s great to see all the special operations services that we have progressed to and are currently offering to the community.”
“One of the best things about working with MFRD for the length of time that I have, is having the opportunity to see rookie Firefighters promoted through the ranks to Captain,” he commented.
As for Decker’s worst day at the department… “For me, it would have to be the Good Friday tornadoes,” he said. “It was the only time in my career I felt so overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I was by myself in the beginning of the incident, but things evolved and we were able to figure it out.” His best day he says is “Everyday, there’s nothing like making a living doing something you love to do.” He went on to say, “The friendships I have made during my career are unbelievable. We are so much like a family; someone who’s never done the job can’t even begin to imagine that.”
When asked how he felt about retirement, Decker said, “It’s bittersweet, but it’s time.” Decker plans to spend time with his wife of 37 years, Ann, his three children, and seven grandchildren, and plans to do more golfing. “My wife makes all the tee times,” he said, “I think she likes it even more than me.”
“Bob will be truly missed,” said Chief Gaines. “He has been a tremendous asset to the Training Division and to the department as a whole, and we wish him much happiness and fulfillment in his retirement.”
Ashley McDonald, Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue