Glenn Smith: From fighting fires to front desk

Lauren Ho , Staff Writer

Although many know Glenn Smith as the friendly Public Safety Specialist at the desk in Olshan Lobby who greets students as they arrive at the school, few know that Smith had served in the Air Force for five years prior to joining the Public Safety team at the school.
Smith was on active duty in the Air Force from 1984 to 1989 before serving in the National Guard for 16 years. “I wanted to serve my country, but I also wanted to travel a little, and it just seemed like the right thing to do,” Smith said.
When Smith first went into the Air Force, he began with training in Texas. “It was really difficult, and I learned a lot from basic training,” Smith said. “It’s a completely different challenge, and it throws you into a whole different mindset that you’ve never experienced before.” At training, Smith learned discipline and independence, as well as communication skills. “I was always shy when I was younger, so joining the Air Force really helped me come out of my shell.”
After training, Smith went to tech school in Illinois for Crash Rescue fireman training, and later the Air Force sent him to his first base, in England. In different bases, Smith worked as a firefighter and as part of a rescue crew. “Some days you’re just a regular fireman, responding to normal emergencies on the base, and other days, I would also do Crash Rescue in the flightline during flying hours in case of aircraft emergencies,” Smith said. When he returned to New York, Smith became a fireman and worked for the New York Fire Department. “After working as a fireman in the Air Force, it helped me realize that being a fireman was what I wanted to do.”
During his time as an Air Force firefighter, Smith had to communicate effectively with everyone he was working with, and he is still able to use these communication skills at school if there are ever emergencies, he said. Additionally, he learned how to calm people down during an emergency while aiding the person in distress.
“Compared to the military, working at the school is just people skills, and having learned how to deal with people and how to help facilitate things, it’s a lot easier,” he said.
Smith traveled to many different bases, including Puerto Rico, Alaska, England, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and his last base, Israel. “At different bases, we had different lengths of deployment. Most were a two-week to one-month deployment, but for Saudi Arabia our deployment was three months,” he said.
Traveling the world was an integral part of why Smith wanted to join the Air Force, and he said that some of his best memories came from his time in other states and countries. In his third base, Alaska, he was able to see the Northern Lights almost every night in the winter, he said. Since he was able to experience other places not as a tourist, Smith developed respect for other cultures.
“I also met a lot of great people along the way that I was friends with down the road,” Smith said. Although Smith recalls many memories from his time in active duty, some were lost. “When I came back from the military, I shipped all my pictures back with me, but unfortunately, my local post office lost them.”
After his deployment in the Air Force, Smith worked part-time with the National Guard from 1990 to 2006. He traveled to different bases to make the American military that was stationed there more comfortable. “I was in civil engineering unit, basically we built stuff, my job was in basically heating and air conditioning,” Smith said.
“What we would do is go out for a couple weeks and normally, we would have jobs building on different bases,” Smith said, “Sometimes we’d build on guard bases aiding the workers that were there. For example, in Italy, we worked with the Italian military to build their bases, in Israel we built dorms, and in Puerto Rico we were working on their flightline, building and renovating their dorms.”
Although Smith is now retired from the military, he can still be called back if an emergency happens. He still continues to explore the world and learn about other cultures, and he is currently traveling in Norway. One complaint that Smith has after traveling with the Air Force is waiting in line. “It’s different because when you’re traveling with the military, everything’s set for you, and you’re not waiting in lines for check or going through regular security, because you’re already processed,” he said.