The desire to be part of something larger than themselves, the integrity to know that your actions count regardless if anyone finds out about them or not, the desire to learn and apply knowledge and the ability to think outside the box are examples to begin with. Most importantly, all wrapped up within a thick skin.
I've got a couple questions for you. What is your MOS (Military Occupational Specialty in civilain speak)? Are you looking to volunteer, be paid or do you even know yet? Have you figured out where you want to live when you ETS? Are you looking to stay Guard or Reserve?
You shouldn't have to worry about age being a factor. Many people walk in off the street and become great fire fighters. Some paid departments have certifications that you need in order to get hired. It all depends on the department. Being in the military has already given you a lot of the characteristics you'll need and many departments have a favorable opinion of prior military members who are applying. The fire service is structured similar to the military with many of the same traits of tradition, heritage and operation. If you have taken pride in your military service and are not a Blue Falcon or POS you shouldn't have any problems.
That gives me some idea of what you are looking at so hopefully I can make some suggestions that would help.
The reason I asked about the Guard is because one of they guys I work with FT used to be in our unit and after getting on the FD he "crossed into the Blue" and joined the Air Guard to become a FF. They sent him to AIT and he got FF1, FF2, HAZMAT, EMT, etc. That helped when he applied to be a Fire Fighter/Operator for our combination department because he already had a lot of training. The Guard of old is gone for any service because of the current military op tempo and he has deployed twice for 4 months each. He also needles me a lot about the difference between Army and Air Force standard of living. That would be one option for you to maintain your military status and get trained. Not sure which Air Force base would be near the areas you listed but it would be worth checking out.
You can also attend a community college that offers a Fire Science or similar degree that will get you most of the basic training you'll need. This would be why I asked about the GI Bill. If you look at colleges make sure you find out what kind of placement rate they have so you can ensure our tax dollars are put to good use with your education.
With that being said, the best thing you can do is to contact the departments in the areas you and find out what it takes to get on their department and what they are looking for in prospective employee's. It would be ideal if you could visit some stations and talk to the guys to determine how they feel about the department and equipment. FF's are a lot like GI's, they'll b**** and complain but also tell you what they think about their department just like GI's talk about their unit.
Since you are also doing your time in the dirt, where are you at? I'm in Baghdad running convoy security as a medic.
If you have other questions let me know or drop me a line.
Hope this helps,