He has special skills. And he’s on a mission to help Ukrainians

Former Old Saybrook firefighter, EMT and Army veteran Jerry Gil of Old Lyme is on a mission to save lives in Ukraine – as a civilian volunteer.

Gil, who worked in a special National Guard unit dealing with domestic terrorism, has exceptional skills. The 2017 Soldier of the Year third-place winner said he had a 6-inch-thick binder full of documentation about his specialized training and accomplishments.

Watching the news of the massive Russian invasion in Ukraine spurred the retired Sergeant First Class into action. Gil quickly organizes a humanitarian trip to Ukraine to help refugees – some 2.8 million Ukrainians had fled their homes by March 14 Reuters reported.

Gil also wants to help those who remained in their homeland.

“My heart is breaking sitting here watching what’s going on,” Gil said. “I’m sitting here knowing I can do something about it and I’m not here doing anything about it.”

While in the National Guard on active duty, Gil had worked with a 25-person unit, as part of VIPR teams. Gil was a CBRN specialist, who deals with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear events, according to the FEMA website.

As a member of the Civilian Support Team, Gil has participated in counter-terrorism missions for over a decade at major (pre-COVID) gatherings such as the Boston Marathon, St. Boston Patrick, New London Sailfest, Boston Red Sox and Patriots home games, as well as the 2012 presidential inauguration and an inaugural ball, in addition to the Pope’s visit to New York in 2015, a-t -he declares.

Gil also provided support during major hurricanes and Super Hurricane Sandy.

Currently, Gil has created a GoFundMe page My Humanitarian Mission in Poland/ Ukraine, asking for $7,500 to help pay for flights and living expenses for his trip to the Polish-Ukrainian border, where he plans to stay for two to three months. By Monday, he had raised $5,431.

“After long discussions with my wife and my family, I gained their support and I will go to Poland and I will go to Ukraine. And my mission is to save lives,” Gil said. “My mission is to provide medical care and assistance to anyone I can help.

“My goal is not to go over there and fight the Russians – my goal is to help in any way I can,” Gil said.

He described watching the news and seeing how 1 million children became refugees overnight.

“A lot of them write their parents’ names on their shirts – I have three kids myself,” he said. Her children are 9, 12 and 15 years old.

Former Old Saybrook Fire Chief JT Dunn said he admired Gil for his willingness to take on the risky mission.

“I think it’s great,” Dunn said. “Anyone who can help should help… At the end of the day, when we’re all judged by what we do for others – if you stand up to help them when needed – that’s a really big positive.”

Dunn noted that Gil’s skills are an asset.

“He is well trained. He has a lot of training with public safety and the military,” Dunn said. “If he can bring that training to people in need, that’s great.”

Dunn, who worked with Gil at OSFD, noted that the firefighters were able to participate in a drill with Gil’s group.

“It’s an awesome group he was a part of and it’s a detailed thing,” Dunn added. “It’s the kind of band that when called out you never really hear about it – it’s really quiet.”

Gil, who has worked both as a firefighter and EMT professionally and as a volunteer, said he was also trained in explosives.

“I’ve had rope rescue, confined space and trench rescue training,” he said. “You name it, I got it. I’m basically a cop, firefighter, military, and EMT all rolled into one.

He has EMT training as a combat rescuer, Gil added.

“I just want to get out there safely, get out there and help people and have a way to come back when I need to come back.”

He noted that his team’s work with CBRM was as a “security asset and subject matter expert.”

Skills aside, Gil faces logistical challenges getting his mission started. Currently, there is a very long wait for passports in the state and region, according to Gil, who is traveling to Texas for an emergency expedited passport.

“All passport locations – emergency passport locations cannot accept anyone,” he said.

From Texas, he said, “I’m flying direct to Poland. So it’s a mess.

While the Ukrainian embassy “strongly advises Americans not to travel to Poland or Ukraine, I am going there for humanitarian reasons,” he said.

Ukraine may be easier to get in than to get out. At the Polish-Ukrainian border, he said: “Literally you can just walk to the border and cross.”

But leaving is the hardest part: “People are flocking. As for the output, this is where it gets tricky because they’re literally combing through the output.

“There are mile-long queues just to get out, so I understand that’s a risk,” he said. “I would love to get into Ukraine and help people out – that’s what I would really love to do, to help save families and help defend civilians.”

If he is forced to stay in Poland, he said he could do good there too, he said. He will work with injured refugees and train people medically and/or train them in combat. He said he was an NRA certified pistol instructor and was also in the military.

“Whether it’s treating people coming out or training people coming in, I just want to do my part,” he said. “I have all these qualities. I will do anything and everything. I hope to do more in the medical field.

Gil also brings as many medical supplies as he can take on the plane, he said.

Comments are closed.