By Sarah Fortney, National Naval Medical Center Public Affairs
BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- The Carroll Manor Fire Company presented the Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bethesda emergency manager with the 2009 Volunteer Firefighter of the Year award April 17.
Ron Kunz, NSA Bethesda emergency manager, knows how to plan for disasters and has years of firsthand experience responding to them. After 30 years in the Navy, he retired last year as a master chief hospital corpsman and recently began working in support of NSA Bethesda. When he's not busy putting emergency preparedness plans in place, he spends as much time as he can volunteering at the Carroll Manor Fire Company near his home in Frederick County, roughly 40 miles north of Bethesda.
While he is proud of this achievement, Kunz said he couldn't see himself doing anything but giving back to his community.
"I enjoy volunteering," he said. "It's a whole different experience."
Volunteer fire departments usually have it tough, operating under a tight budget with high expenses. A new fire engine and equipment, for example, can cost about $400,000.
Kunz encourages others to help their community fire departments in some capacity, be it in administration or fundraising.
"Everybody can help in some way," he said."Training is free to those who want to become a nationally accredited volunteer firefighter."
For Kunz, volunteerism runs in the family — he met his wife while she was working as an emergency medical technician and he was a firefighter in Virginia Beach, Va., and now both of his daughters are cadet firefighters. He added that the family has always made it a point to volunteer for their local fire station everywhere they traveled while Kunz was in the Navy.
"Not only does it help the community, it can also be helpful to you and your family," Kunz said.
As a trained firefighter, he said, an individual can help in an emergency situation should something happen at home or in public to a bystander.
Kunz said he has also been able to translate his experience as a firefighter — responding to all types of emergency situations — into his work at NSA Bethesda.
"It helps me a lot here, especially being in the emergency management field," he said.
Kunz joined Carroll Manor in October 2008. He has been a volunteer firefighter since he was 14 and has seen it all, he said, even delivering a baby as a cadet firefighter at age 16. At the time, he was riding in the back of an ambulance en route to the hospital with a woman in labor.
"The baby decided it didn't want to wait, and that's where she delivered," he said.
Carroll Manor Fire Company Chief Ed Johnson said Kunz has made an impact not only on the communities that the station serves, but also the lives he has saved. He has gone above and beyond, helping in any way possible, running calls, sitting on committees and participating in most station fundraisers.
"He brings a wealth of EMS knowledge and leadership skills that are greatly appreciated and recognized by the company - always willing to pitch in, whether it's crawling into a mangled vehicle to reach a victim, providing support functions on working fires, or providing support to a family member who is in need during probably one of the most critical times in their life," Johnson said. "He has a deep desire to help his fellow man."
Johnson said the station has also benefited from his family's dedication with their help in fundraisers and responding to emergencies.
"It was a great pleasure and honor to present Ron with this award," Johnson said. "We could only wish that his family moved to our station long ago because of their abilities, knowledge and just good common sense. I am very excited and proud to say Ron Kunz is a friend, and one that means a great deal to me. Ron is a credit to his family, our community, our military and country."