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In Their Own Words: George Hoggard
How did you become a firefighter?
My father was a cop, my brother was a cop and I got out of the military and my dad wanted me to be cop and so I went into the police force. I did that job for one year, and during the course of that year I got stabbed and shot at and all kind of things happened and at the end of the year I told my dad, "Hey, I know you wanted me to be a cop, but I got to go find a safer job, I don't like being a cop." And luckily for me he was friends with a fire chief and got me a job on a really good department and he said, "This is the safest job I can get you" and I've been a fireman ever since.
SLATE: What memories stand out for you?
I was really new out here and got to go out to the fire training area and they said three astronauts were going to show up and I didn't know who they were. And I was going to assist in their training because they used to use live fire training for the astronauts so I was supposed to be out there. My fire clothing was their backup, or protection, if you will. And I went to the fire training area and three guys showed up. They were in civilian clothes and they got out. They did everything we asked them to do with extinguishers and the hose and the masks and stuff, part of the training. And they left and I had no idea who they were and six months later they stepped on the moon, it was the Apollo 11 crew.
SLATE: What do you do to teach the astronauts how to drive the M113?
It's not hard. Let's face it, the United States military teaches 17-year-old high school dropouts to drive the M113, can't be all that hard, and that's what I tell the astronauts and that gives them a little more incentive to do it right, right? And I tell them, the shuttle cockpit's got over 2,000 switches, this one's only got two, on and off, and it's easy as it can be. If you can drive a tractor and plow a field, you can drive an M113.
SLATE: What is the M113 used for?
The astronauts, when they come here for TCDT, the dress rehearsal, it's maybe two or three weeks before their launch. Some of them have spent two or three years getting ready for that launch and so they're very close. This is the last part of their training. The reason it is last is because it's so important, their lives could depend on it, this little bit of training they do here on launch day, it has to be fresh in their minds. But when they get here, they're pretty sure they're going up and they've always had a lot of fun doing it.
SLATE: How do you grade the astronauts?
They said is there a pass/fail to this driving test and I said, "Yeah, if you hurt the old guy, you're going to fail the test, that's the bottom line, don't hurt the old guy."
SLATE: Did you think the shuttle would be retiring at the same time you are?
No, I didn't. When we first started the shuttle program, it was supposed to be 20-year program at most I think is what they had said then. The very idea of it lasting 30 years never dawned on me and I never did have any retirement plans because working out here is so much fun, quite frankly, I'm thinking, "Why would I want to leave this?" It's a blast. People who don't know anything about the space program cannot imagine how exciting it is to work out here.
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