Sullivan County public safety official shares story of 2-week deployment to Israel to help country's fire service
Sullivan County Public Safety Commissioner Scott Schulte is sharing his story of his two-week deployment to Israel to assist the Israeli Fire Service.
Schulte is a member of the Emergency Volunteer Project, an organization created in the early 2000s, that uses trained American fire fighters to supplement the existing fire services in Israel.
This was Schulte's third deployment during an armed conflict.
This time, he helped lead a team of 20 firefighters in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and several locations along the Gaza Strip.
"We were able to see the Israeli Airforce going into these strategic strikes on terrorist strongholds as well as experiencing the volleys that were coming back," said Sullivan County Public Safety Commissioner Scott Schulte.
Schulte and his team found themselves in the middle of the crossfire on several occasions.
"The building across the street from the fire station was struck by a rocket and a few blocks away we had a really intense attack that struck a number of vehicles, buildings, and a shelter as well and it was a pretty significant fire and rescue effort," said Schulte.
He said the decision to put his life on the line and return to Israel was personal. Over the years, he's gotten very close with many Israelis who were directly impacted by Hamas' invasion and subsequent attack on Oct. 7.
"A couple of the guys that were with me in my station this last deployment were in the Kibbutz Be'eri, one of the ones where the massacre took place, so that weighs heavily on your mind when you're doing these things. You know firemen who were murdered, you know firemen's families who were murdered," said Schulte.
Firefighters rotate in and out of deployment on two-week schedules to protect their mental health.
When asked if he plans to go back, Schulte didn't hesitate, "If we have to return, then we return."