News: Serving the country from the bottom to the top - NYC Fire Chief a private in N.Y. Army National Guard
Story by Pfc. Jasmine Walthall
By Pfc. Jasmine N. Walthall
Multi-National Division - Center
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Pvt. 1st Class Steven P. Fitzgerald, a resident of Floral Park, N.Y., brings a unique twist to the average private in the Army. When Fitzgerald is not in Iraq serving as an intelligence analyst, he is a city-wide Battalion Chief for the New York City Fire Department.
Fitzgerald is a member of the 3-142 Assault Helicopter Battalion, a New York National Guard unit from Ronkonkama, N.Y.
Fitzgerald jumped at the chance to enlist after his fiancee, Spc. Viviana B. Molina, also in the 3-142 AHB, informed him of the new age waiver. Fitzgerald joined the National Guard in July of 2007 at 41years old, an action he states was long overdue.
"There were so many people I knew personally who passed during 9/11, and all I did was pay my taxes and practice my golf swing," said Fitzgerald. "My goal was to do my part by coming to Iraq and serving my country."
This sudden decision to start a career in the Army, when his civilian career was nearing retirement, came as quite a shock for Fitzgerald's family and friends.
"Everyone thought I was crazy or going through a mid-life crisis," said Fitzgerald. "I wasn't looking to prove anything or get attention; I just wanted to do my part, and it was worth it."
While Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training came relatively easy for Fitzgerald, both physically and mentally, there were a few challenges Fitzgerald had to come to overcome.
"My biggest challenge was working with young adults who could be my children," said Fitzgerald. "However, I was in awe that there were Soldiers here doing more at 21 years old than I ever thought of doing," said the native of Garden City, N.Y.
"I also had to deal with being a lower enlisted and having to take orders where I was previously in a position to give orders to 400-500 firefighters," finished Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald has been in the NYC Fire Department since 1990, a decision he credits to his father, a retired firefighter. While serving in the fire department, Fitzgerald attended several schools in his field including the National Fire Academy. He also earned a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from St. Johns University in N.Y.
He plans to continue to work on his master's degree while considering Warrant Officer School when his term is up in 2010.
Major Fred J. Evans, 3-142 AHB intelligence officer, commends Soldiers like Fitzgerald.
"I can't say that I would have done the same thing if I was in his position, but I am proud that he did," says Evans. "He is very accountable, and because of his civilian job, I tend to give him more tasks and responsibilities than the average private first class."
"To be able to say in June of 2009 that I am a veteran in the U.S. Army, is a big deal," said Fitzgerald. "I am proud to say that I am serving my country and have done my part, and would definitely do it again."
This work, Serving the country from the bottom to the top - NYC Fire Chief a private in N.Y. Army National Guard, by SPC Jasmine Walthall, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.