FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- For the Directorate of Public Safety’s firefighter of the year, working on Fort Rucker is a bit of a family tradition.
Lieutenant John Ross, a second-generation firefighter on post and a third-generation Fort Rucker employee, said he feels honored to be named the directorate’s firefighter of the year.
“I am more than ecstatic to have earned this award over so many other deserving candidates,” he said, adding that he believes his willingness and motivation to learn, and then spread that knowledge to his colleagues, helped him achieve the honor.
He said he’s proud to work with such a great team.
“This team is very special,” he said. “We are the largest fire department in the U.S. Army and we have a mission for the home of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence. That being said, we have many unique endeavors that most fire departments do not encounter.
“Being part of this department is definitely rewarding. I could not imagine serving with a finer group of individuals,” Ross added. “DPS received (the Sgt. Maj. Wardell B. Turner Award recognizing it as the best in the Army) last year simply because all three sections did what it took day in and day out. I would like to thank everyone from the top of the chain of command down to the bottom for what they do on a daily basis!”
Ross’ family tradition began when his paternal grandfather was stationed at Fort Rucker in the 1960s, the Carroll High School graduate said.
“While here, he met my grandmother at the Ozark courthouse,” he said, adding that they married a year later. “After a 20-year career in the Army, they moved back to Ozark in 1980, and both grandmother and grandfather were hired as a civilians on post.”
His grandmother worked at the Soldier Service Center helping Soldiers in- and out-process and retired after 21 years. His grandfather worked with the Directorate of Public Works and retired after 22 years.
“My father got hired at the tire shop on Fort Rucker in 1986 and transferred over to the fire department in 1988,” Ross said. “He retired with a rewarding 28 years of service in December 2014 as an assistant chief of operations.”
Ross followed in his father’s footsteps in May 2015 when he was hired on as a firefighter at Fort Rucker.
“I plan to work until retirement, as well. I can only hope to be as successful and as much of an asset as my family before me,” he said. “When it came to picking a place to work as a firefighter, there were no other options – my roots were already planted. I grew up on this installation watching my father lead other firefighters.”
But Ross didn’t immediately jump right into his father’s footsteps.
“To be honest, I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “I had considered other careers, and was leaning towards attending the Alabama Aviation College to be an aircraft mechanic at Fort Rucker, but God had other plans – He kind of put firefighting into my lap.
“I had no plans on being a firefighter until one day I was informed that Ozark was holding a firefighter recruit class the following week. Next thing I know, I had graduated and was a certified firefighter,” he said. “At that point, I decided I would make a career out of it.”
He’s been at it for nine years, with stints at the Troy and Andalusia municipal fire departments before spending the past seven years at Fort Rucker, where he was recently promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
“My primary duties as a firefighter are to respond to fires, vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, hazardous material incidents, technical rescue, and any other emergency that require life, safety, property conservation and scene stabilization,” Ross said.
He is also heavily involved in the unit’s vehicle maintenance program and volunteered to take charge of scheduling annual physical fitness exams for the firefighters on his shift, according to a DPS write-up on his performance that also referred to him as the fire department’s “go-to guy.”
“My philosophy behind having a successful career is having integrity, a hard-work ethic, pride in the job, a positive attitude and, most importantly, taking care of people,” Ross said.