FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 31, 2012) -- Fort Rucker recently received a unique honor as the U.S. Army Installation Management Command honored a local recreation facility employee as Recreational Employee of the Year and a local volunteer as a Friend of Recreation.

Jonathan Cole, manager of the aquatics program at Fort Rucker, received the Recreational Employee of the Year award. Lt. Col. Craig Unrath, director of simulation at Fort Rucker, was one of eight finalists who received the Friend of Recreation award.

The Recreation Awards Program annually recognizes people and programs involved in Army recreation. All garrisons and installations may submit web-based nominations to their region for the four awards given: the Garrison/Installation Recreation Award, Recreation Employee of the Year Award, Career Recreation Award, and Friend of Recreation Award, according to John O. Clancy, outdoor recreation program manager at Fort Rucker.

One nominee is selected Army-wide for the first three awards, while up to 10 individuals may receive the Friend of Recreation Award.

Cole was "floored and humbled" to be chosen for Recreational Employee of the Year.

"Regarding the award, the things that I've contributed and done that gave me that recognition -- I couldn't have done that by myself," said Cole. "I had to have my subordinates on board, I had to have the support of my supervisors -- one person can't do the amount of stuff on that list."

When asked what the most rewarding aspect of his job is on a day-to-day basis, Cole was quick to point back to the Soldiers.

"The most rewarding thing is just to know that I'm helping out troops," said Cole. "I've had a lot of discussions with people that work in the same field that I'm in, and I would say it's the intrinsic rewards -- it's just the motivation of knowing that what we do actually helps the Soldiers.

"In the times that we're currently in, I think that's extremely important. I'm not a Soldier, I didn't serve active duty military, so to know that I'm contributing in a way that I can makes me feel good," he said.

Lori Ciranni, manager of sports, fitness and aquatics at the Fort Rucker Fitness Facility, complimented Cole for his devotion to enforcing aquatics safety.

"One of his main goals is to run a safe pool," said Ciranni. "That's one thing I enjoyed about him coming on board, because I knew we were safe, and there was no doubt that he would fight to make sure we stayed safe."

Unrath, who serves as the outdoor recreation advisory president, said that his selection as a Friend of Recreation really showed the quality of the people around him.

"It's a reflection of the whole council, the whole team," said Unrath. "You don't do any of these types of things without a team effort."

Unrath received the award for hundreds of hours of volunteer work, and for his role as the military chair on the outdoor recreation council, in which he "corrals and packages" ideas and concerns from volunteers passionate about outdoor recreation for presentation to the garrison commander.

Unrath was inspired to start contributing his own time after witnessing volunteers who have made a real impact throughout his career.

"When you actually see something changed, or make a difference, or somebody says 'Hey, thanks to the council for doing that, things are better now' -- it's unbelievable when a volunteer organization can actually make a difference," said Unrath.

Unrath also had plenty of advice for anyone looking to get involved in volunteer work on Fort Rucker.

"There's usually no shortage of want for volunteers -- I'd recommend going to see your MWR and asking if there're any opportunities for volunteering specific to the military community," said Unrath. "MWR does a phenomenal job. I think the Fort Rucker MWR specifically is one of the best I've seen over my 22 years in the army."

As a final piece of advice, Unrath advised anyone getting into volunteering to work on something that genuinely interests them.

"If you're working on something you enjoy, something you care about, and something you're passionate about, all that effort becomes effortless."