By Keith PannellJanuary 16, 2020
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - The U. S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Directorate of Emergency Services took half the awards handed out in the Installation Management Command-Europe 2019 Department of Defense Fire and Emergency Services Award competition.
The garrison won the Fire Department of the Year-Large category; Civilian Fire Officer of the Year was awarded to Michael Hill, Germersheim Army Depot; Fire Service Dispatcher of the Year was awarded to Alisha Braun of Rhine Ordinance Barracks; Fire Service Inspector of the Year went to Mario Hoinigg, Sembach Kaserne; and Emergency Medical Services Provider of the Year was awarded to Thomas Heinrich at Miesau Army Depot.
"Our department is successful because of our people. The department's leaders, fire inspectors, and firefighters focus their efforts on Army Readiness and support of the mission. That translates into a positive impact on the community, our Soldiers, and Army families. It's a true team effort that requires everyone's commitment," said Marshall Fiedler, garrison fire chief.
Six of the 29 sites within the garrison have fire stations: Kleber Kaserne, Baumholder Military Community, Sembach Kaserne, Germersheim Army Depot, Miesau Ammunition Depot and Coleman Work Site.
Hill has four major duties as an officer at the Germersheim Army Depot fire station. He is the assistant fire chief at GAD, the environmental officer for the site, along with the head of the National Fire and Safety Association and is the safety officer for the entire site.
"I sure was surprised! I couldn't be more proud of this award," he said. "It's not just me. There are many people I work with who help me out and made this award possible for me. I was lucky to be chosen."
Braun has been a garrison dispatcher for two years, averages about one emergency call a day and handled more than 100 translation calls in 2019. However, she says she was surprised to be nominated as dispatcher of the year and thought it would end there.
"It's amazing to win. It's a great feeling," Braun said. "I did a lot of certifications this year and worked hard on training. Our head of dispatch and, of course, the chief, have been great in helping me succeed."
Heinrich is no stranger to winning IMCOM-level awards. He was named Firefighter of the Year in 2008. Since then, he's become a station captain at Miesau and revamped the emergency medical technician training program and is re-training the entire garrison 300-member host nation emergency responder corps.
"It's a great honor to win this award," Heinrich said. "Every patient our EMTs have been called to, no matter their injuries, is still alive and that's honestly better than any award."
As a fire inspector and fire prevention officer, Hoinigg spends his workday making sure garrison employees, and the facilities they work in, are up to standard. So, he freely admits many don't necessarily like to see him come into their workspace. But, he said he tries to put people at ease with humor.
"My job is working with different people every day. The thing I enjoy most is working with the kids at the schools and the child development center," he said. "I just do my job, I'm very surprised I was nominated and I'm even more surprised I won! Going up against other firefighters in the IMCOM DES competition is like competing against brothers."
According to Fiedler, the USAG RP Fire Department is one of the largest departments in the Army, with 300 employees. He said it's also one of the youngest.
"By no means are we perfect, but we're working hard to move forward through continuous improvement to meet the many challenges brought on by transformation within the garrison and across Europe," Fiedler said. "But, a win for one of us is a win for all of us."
Fiedler added that much of the credit goes to the DES and garrison leadership for the support and guidance which has been "immeasurably important" to the progress of the fire department.
"Our firefighters are the best. They set the bar high in everything they do, and these awards are a testament to their hard work," said Col. Jason Edwards, USAG RP commander. "Having skilled emergency responders like this on our team, U.S. and local national, enables us to be the Army's premier Strategic Readiness Platform overseas. To also be named the best large fire department speaks highly of their teamwork and that of our entire Directorate of Emergency Services. I congratulate them all on a job well done."