Firefighters in formal uniform pose in front of a fire truck.
Newly-appointed Eglin Fire Chief Michael Clayton and his command staff pose in front of an Eglin Air Force Base Fire Truck.

Molar of the story - man plans, God laughs.

The tooth of the matter is Chief Michael Clayton didn’t expect to become a Firefighter at all. “I was going to school to be an electrical engineer,” Clayton said in a characteristically enthusiastic voice over the phone. He decided to enlist in the Air Force and get a job with electronics. Fate had a different plan, though. “A bad tooth caused me to miss the class. They gave me the option to be either a firefighter or security forces and I took ‘firefighter’ and went from there. So, all by chance, I was destined to be a firefighter.”

Three years later – Clayton met his wife, also an airman, at Torrejón Air Base, Spain. “I was walking down the hallway in the dorm, and we spoke. She hasn’t left my side since!” Clayton said with a laugh. All told, the Claytons would serve more than 20 years of active duty – and retire from Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene as the base’s Fire Chief. 

“Shout out to Natasha [Clayton] We’ve been married 28 years. She’s been on this ride pretty much from year five of my military journey and I owe it to her for getting me on the right track and making me realize I need to take care of family,” Clayton said. “We’ve had some great assignments. We’ve been to Spain, England, Japan and Hawai’i. But, I always say that Torrejón was the best, because that’s where we met.”

firefighter's portrait in uniform.
Eglin Air Force Base Fire Chief Michael Clayton is a 24-year veteran of the Air Force. He has served in several previous posts on Eglin and was the Fire Chief at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas while on Active duty.
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Getting to the Big Base - Eglin

Once they retired, Clayton began looking for fire service jobs nationwide. He decided to work as assistant chief of fire prevention at Eglin in 2012. The base is about halfway between the Clayton’s parent’s homes in Louisiana and the Central Florida area. He was promoted to deputy chief in 2020, applied, and got the top job when former Chief Mark Guiliano retired.  

Now, he is in charge of the runways, roadways, homes, and range over three counties that comprise Eglin Air Force Base. He is responsible for the Eglin Range, Base, and 158 firefighters under his command. 

Whether it’s a fire in base housing, a plane crash, a forest fire, or a hazardous material leak, Eglin firefighters respond. 

“We’re known across the Air Force for emergency services,” Clayton said about Eglin’s Fire Department, “my goal is to keep our name in the forefront. We are leading some innovation projects for the Air Force right now.” Clayton says this includes working with various companies to bring new technology on board to make the department safer, quicker, and more efficient than ever. 

It also means keeping up certifications and credentials for the department’s many specialties. “We are all hazards,’ Clayton said. Crews have trained in aviation disaster management, hazardous materials, and search and rescue – to name a few. 

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