Air Force reservist Jim Lambert, who lives in Murrieta and is a first sergeant assigned to the 729th Airlift Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, graduated from the EMS program in 2003. He credits it with helping to instill the qualities that led to him being awarded the Bronze Star with Valor.
“If I wasn’t given a shot in that program I wouldn’t be a paramedic and wouldn’t have obtained the skills I utilized that day in Afghanistan,”
His act of valor unfolded on Aug. 20, 2011. Lambert was assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, 455 Expeditionary Mission Support Group at Bagram Airfield when an insurgent 107-millimeter rocket attack caused a five-acre inferno.
Drawing on his firefighting expertise, Lambert entered the burning United Arab Emirates compound several times to distribute and employ heavy equipment resources to contain the blaze. He directed 11 airmen to create a critical fire break and access lanes for firefighting.
He also discovered a crate of grenades next to a structure that was fully engaged in flames. Aware of the inevitable detonation, he grabbed the explosives and hustled them to a safe area. In the end, Lambert saved the lives of more than 50 emergency responders and protected 90 vulnerable facilities valued at $8 million from the fire.
A year later, on August 15, 2012, Lambert was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his actions.
Lambert, 43, graduated from high school in New Jersey and immediately enlisted in the Air Force. After 14 years on active duty, he decided to pursue a career as a firefighter. He worked as a firefighter and then realized that adding paramedic credentials would help his career.
Entering the EMS program, Lambert was impressed with the program’s focus on taking care of people.
“Competence, compassion, character is their motto,” Lambert said. “That really clicked with me.”
That is what Chris Nollette had in mind when he took over the program nine years ago.
“It’s all about building leaders,” said Nollette, of Riverside, who has 32 years in the firefighting/
He added: “You can teach medicine to anyone. What you need to teach is how to be a good person, how to have emotional and social intelligence.”
Offered through the Riverside Community College District, the year-long program averages about 30 annual graduates. There is a waiting list of 400 people, Nollette said, and graduates are recruited by fire departments in many major cities, including Seattle, Dallas and New York City.
Lambert stayed closer to home, landing a job as a paramedic in Norco immediately after finishing the program. When the City of Norco decided to contract with Cal Fire, he made the transition to the state agency.
About the RCCD CTE Community Collaborative:
CTE Community Collaborative Partners: Three community colleges: Moreno Valley College, Norco College, and Riverside City College; Riverside County Office of Education Career Technical Education Unit; and six unified school