A badge-pinning ceremony welcomed the Vandenberg Fire Department’s next leader, a man very familiar with the agency and sprawling installation.
Clemente Marrero has been selected to fill the civilian slot of chief left vacant by the retirement of Mark Farias earlier this year after 20 years leading the agency.
Marrero served as response division chief and assistant chief for training at the Vandenberg Fire Department and has been with the agency since November 2010.
A ceremony occurred on base Monday morning at one of the fire stations where his family, coworkers and colleagues from off-base agencies attended to show support.
“As I look back, there are so many people that contributed to my development, either in a large or small way that resulted in me being here,” Marrero said.
In hindsight, he said, he appreciated colleagues who provided honest, hard, critical feedback to Marrero during his career.
“I would like to thank those people who invested in me, took a personal interest in my professional development, challenged me and helped me grow to be a better firefighter and leader,” Marrero said. “They did that not based on anything I did, or what they saw in me, but based on their character and their commitment to invest in individuals.”
Marrero said he talked to a friend who likened becoming chief to getting the key to a vehicle.
“You have been given the keys to a very powerful engine. Take her out for spin and enjoy the ride,” Marrero quoted.
The Fire Department protects millions of dollars in facilities deemed critical for national security and located at Vandenberg Space Force Base.
Encompassing about 100,000 acres, the installation has been considered the third-largest in the Department of Air Force, which now includes both the Air Force and Space Force installations.
In addition to battling fires at Vandenberg, the agency’s firefighters often respond to assist in off-base blazes and other incidents in Santa Barbara County and beyond.
The base also boasts the Defense Department’s only Hotshots team of specialized wildland firefighters.
After graduating from North Salinas High School, Marrero enlisted in the Air Force, ending up in a career a firefighter — what once was considered his third choice.
Before retiring as a senior master sergeant, Marrero served at multiple locations in the United States and across the globe during his 20-year military career.
The Vandenberg Fire Department has more than 110 members, including civilians and military personnel.
The agency and its members routinely earn awards at various levels of the military, including being named the best in the Defense Department multiple times.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.