By Scott Prater
When he followed that by earning the wing’s civilian of the year honor a few months later, he again accepted warm greetings from his colleagues. But, when he found out he’d earned the Colorado Air Force Association’s Civilian of the Year honor at a banquet Aug. 3, he was greeted with statements like, “Oh, Tony has won another award, that’s a shock.”
It seems that now days, awards for Flowers have become old hat.
“That’s just our way of giving him some grief,” Schriever Fire Department Assistant Chief Jim Giddens said. “We make it sound like it’s just an ordinary day, but he knows we all respect and admire him and his accomplishments.”
His award package reads like it belongs to an entire department: a half page of on-the-job accomplishments, everything from pulling critically injured patients from horrific auto accidents to directing teams at dangerous fuel spill sites. Another section lists his leadership qualities as he trained cardio pulmonary resuscitation students and instructors alike. His self-development and improvement section lists so many certifications that it’s hard to imagine there’s anything left for him to learn. That’s not counting all of his community involvement activities.
His fellow firefighters and supervisors often wonder if Flowers has figured out a way to stop time.
“These are not activities he has slung together in a quarter just to make himself look good,” Giddens said. “He does this stuff all the time. It was easy to write his nominee package.”
As a fire department captain, Flowers is a crew leader, the on-point fireman who leads responders during an emergency. Giddens refers to him as a guy who always has to have his nose in whatever is going on.
“He can calm a patient better than anybody, and then take care of business,” Giddens said. “It’s not just the young guys who see him as a role model. We have veteran firefighters with years of experience who look up to him because he’s always working and always looking to improve.”
Flowers if often busier when he’s off duty.
He doubles as a firefighting and CPR instructor at Pikes Peak Community College and stays involved with other fire departments in the area.
“There’s nothing else I’d rather do than help people,” Flowers said. “My wife hates it sometimes, but I like to stay busy and I like teaching.”
He admits that he probably took too much on last year, when on top of his work at Schriever and his teaching duties at the college, he volunteered to organize the Eighth Annual Firefighters’ Ball.
“The DOD firefighters in Colorado gather every year to raise money for local charities and create camaraderie,” he said. “I think that’s important and I wanted to be a part of putting it together.”
He’s known little else during his adult life. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1993 and began life as a military firefighter a few months later. After 14 years as a military and civilian firefighter around distant parts of the world, the Colorado Springs native found his way to Schriever. He recalls many emergency responses during his time here and says the most recent Waldo Canyon Fire sticks out as one of the most memorable.
He was one of a crew of four from Schriever firemen who worked a 12-hour shift trying to safeguard life and property at the U.S. Air Force Academy during some the most dangerous days of the wildfire.
“We needed to protect structures in the Pine Valley so we went in and cut down trees and built a fire line all the way to the base’s Child Development Center,” he recalled. “Early on it was tough to watch the fire expand and feel helpless to do anything about it. I think people didn’t understand that at the time, but as reporting of the sheer size and power of that fire has come out its easier for folks to grasp. It felt great to finally get the call that we could go in and do something about it.”
He said the fire did bring about some positives. It drew firemen and departments closer together and gave them a better understanding of the capabilities of other units.
Giddens believes that same type of appreciation was evident when he accompanied Flowers to the Air Force Association award ceremony in Denver.
“Flowers was up there looking out at room full of retired generals and chiefs, real American heroes who fought wars to protect us,” Giddens said. “It was a great feeling to see these senior ranking people showing their respect for the people who are doing the job where the rubber meets the road.”