Garland fire captain returns after two first responder support trips

Firefighters from North Texas just got back from visiting West Texas after providing a support system for first responders dealing with the mass shooting.

For one of the fire captains in the group, it was his second trip in less than a month. He also went to El Paso to provide the same support.

The group of DFW firefighters responded to what they call the highest call they can get: helping their own after witnessing unimaginable trauma.

“As firefighters, we go because we want to help,” said Garland Fire Capt. JD Schulgen. “But to help our own, that’s the best there is.”

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Schulgen had just gotten back from counseling firefighters in El Paso following the Walmart mass shooting. Last week, he and another firefighter from Garland and two firefighters from Plano were called to West Texas. In Midland and Odessa, the four of them were able to help more than 60 first responders.

“We did the best we could for those firefighters,” Schulgen said. “And if I told one, I told them all: ‘You guys, you gals, you did a great job here in Midland. We’re very proud of you. Thank you for the job you did.’”

The men are among hundreds of firefighters vetted and trained by the International Association of Firefighters in recent years to counsel colleagues. They are trained to serve as a bridge to mental health help and travel with behavioral health specialists.

Captain Schulgen says the main thing those men and women struggle with is whether they could have saved another life. It’s humbling work that has empowered an entire community of firefighters and the four of them.

“Walking away, they were very fulfilled knowing they helped fellow firefighters get through this tragedy,” he said.

The group also met with some of the dispatchers who took the 911 calls that day. There are peer support groups remaining within the fire departments in Midland and Odessa that will continue to help the first responders and their families.