Firefighters to Go to South Korea

Five people from the East Texas area will be heading to South Korea next spring, as part of a business exchange program. They were selected through an application process by the Rotary Club. Two Tyler firefighters are among the five people chosen for the program.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to South Korea to learn about the culture and my chosen career," said Bud Barrett, a Station 2 firefighter.

It will be Barrett's first time to venture into Asia when he leaves the country in April. It's also a first time experience for fellow firefighter Terence Thedford. The Tyler firemen will get first-hand experience watching South Korean firefighters in action.

"I think it'll improve me as a firefighter and help citizens here, as far the ones I come in contact with, by seeing the way other cultures interact with their public and do their job," said Thedford, a Station 8 firefighter.

Thedford and Barrett will spend one month in the southwestern city of Gwangju, living with host families through the Rotary Club.

"For me, religion is a big part of life, and to get over there and see the way their kids grow up and the things they're taught, and be able to converse with all the older people of the religious community. It'll be a really unique opportunity, and I look forward to doing that very much," said Thedford.

It's a trip that will be as much of a personal experience as a chance to learn from a fire department half-way around the world.

"They, as you know, have a much larger city, with 1.3 million people, so I'm sure they do many things that we don't do here," said Barrett.

These two firefighters also see this as a chance to represent their country.

Barrett and Thedford will stay in South Korea April 22 through May 21 of next year. A member of the Tyler Rotary Club will go with them and the two other participants, a librarian and an equestrian therapist.

Julie Tam, reporting.