Police / Fire

Hollister firefighters receive awards from Army, state

Hollister Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo and Captain Carlos Bedolla, Jr. receive awards for service, life-saving efforts

Two Hollister firefighters were recently recognized for service above and beyond the norm: Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and Captain Carlos Bedolla, Jr. received the Emergency Medical Technician’s Life Saving Medal.

Martin Del Campo wears two hats: one as the city’s fire chief and the other of a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves, as part of FEMA Region 9’s Emergency Preparedness Liaison Element. While being a fire chief is a full-time job, on occasion the federal government reaches out to him when disaster strikes.

As is regularly the case in the military, a person’s work accomplishments are often recognized long after the work has been done. In this case, the Army presented Martin Del Campo with the Meritorious Service Medal for conducting humanitarian services from June 21, 2010 to Oct. 1, 2015, as a member of U.S. Army North, 76th Operational Response Command.

The official medal citation says that he was being recognized for his exceptional meritorious service through his “…service in emergency preparedness, humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations and exercises in the Northern and Pacific Command areas of responsibility. SFC (sergeant first class) Martin Del Campo’s competence, professionalism and dedication to duty reflects great credit upon himself…”

The mundane military-speak language of the citation, though, doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. In fact, Martin Del Campo was instrumental in providing operational services during five hurricanes and the aftermath of a tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands. He said he was surprised to receive the medal because he thought it was primarily awarded for combat operations. He received it, though, for his involvement in large-scale emergencies.

“They recognized me and a captain for Pacific Command air responsibilities for emergencies, such as hurricanes in the mid-Atlantic off New England and in the Pacific Rim,” he said. “After the tsunami that struck Fukushima, we repatriated (evacuated) all of the military families that were in Japan. We were then deployed to Travis Air Force Base for 14 days to receive these folks (spouses and children). There were over 1,600 families.”

Martin Del Campo said he was responsible for coordinating everything from securing money for the spouses to formula and diapers for babies, and shelter for their pets. He said the families stayed at Travis Air Force Base until arrangements were made to get commercial flights to their home towns.

This was just one of many operations with which he has been involved over the past few years that earned him the medal.

“We get deployed for large-scale incidents,” he said. “If we know a hurricane is coming toward the New England states, we will be sent to Fort Deven near Boston. We hunker down for 12 to 14 hours until the hurricane passes and then we send troops out to do a damage assessment in the community. Then we deploy military assets that the community can no longer provide, such as power generation. We’ll send a company of army, navy or marine engineers to the area to power up the entire community until they can restore their own power.”

Martin Del Campo described what he does during these operations.

“I identify the units that have the capability to provide the support that the jurisdiction needs and then request permission from the Secretary of Defense to deploy them, and then wait for the community to tell us they need help,” he said.

In one instance, Martin Del Campo's unit was involved in a rather macabre mission when it was tasked to help local residents who it would have seemed were long beyond needing it.

“During Hurricane Irene, the only mission I was able to support, because everything else was being taken care of by the local jurisdictions, was a flooded area that included a historical cemetery where the coffins were uprooted from their burial plots,” he said matter-of-factly. “We sent an Army mortician team to identify the bodies and we were able to put them back into their prospective graves. You would think we would be out there to do other things, like food service or send in the Corps of Engineers to take care of their sewage or water, but this was so unique and the local morticians were so overwhelmed with the recently dead they didn’t have the resources to take care of the historical cemetery.”

Closer to home, Martin Del Campo had a chance to pay it forward when he set in motion an award for Captain Carlos Bedolla for saving a child’s life.

“He was off duty when he heard the call on his pager for medical aid at the apartment complex by the high school,” he said. “He hears that a kid is choking on candy. He jumps out of his vehicle and runs over there where there’s a lot of people frantic over this child, who by this time was turning blue.”

Martin Del Campo told how Bedolla identified himself as a firefighter and as the child was handed to him noticed some of the people appeared to be police officers and perhaps doctors, none of whom had stepped forward to help.

“He’s thinking ‘how come none of these people are doing anything?’” he said. “Well, it was a Halloween party and they were all in costumes. He didn’t realize that at the time. But they gave him the kid and he does a couple of back blows and the kid starts breathing. He gives the toddler back to the mom as the engine shows up from Station 1, and they render care.”

Martin Del Campo said no one at the scene realized who had just helped the child. They just knew he was a firefighter.

“I’m sitting in my office and hear this coming over the radio, and I meant to ask the engine company officer who that was who saved the child, but I forgot,” he said. “The next day, I call upstairs and ask who it was. I wanted to know if it was one of our guys or somebody else because I wanted to recognize him. Captain Bedolla said it was him.”

Martin Del Campo did not tell Bedolla that he was going to recommend him for a citation, which he did, and then sent it up the chain. It eventually made its way to Sacramento, and Bedolla was ultimately awarded the state’s Emergency Medical Technician’s Life Saving Medal.

“That’s the first time anybody in this county has ever received that medal,” the chief said. “That’s pretty cool.”

If the medal wasn’t enough, Martin Del Campo said he had just promoted Bedolla to battalion chief, effective Jan. 7.

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]