DASD Rodriguez is Firefighter for a Day at the FDNY

Photo of Mr. James Rodriguez with wounded warriors at the F-D-N-Y

Mr. James Rodriguez, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Warrior Care Policy, with wounded warriors in front of steel from the Twin Towers at the Fire Department of New York’s fire training academy in April 2016.

For Ricardo Demetrius, a retired Corpsman in the Marine Corps Forces Reserve turned fireman and drill instructor in the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), regularly interacting with wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans is part of the job. In addition to grooming the next generation of city firefighters, Demetrius also trains wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans at the FDNY’s biannual event, Firefighter for a Day. Throughout the event, active duty service members and veterans participate in various fire training activities, learning to handle complex incidents in the wide variety of environments, conditions and terrains that urban firefighters face.

This year, James Rodriguez, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Warrior Care Policy participated in Firefighter for a Day by touring the training facility and taking part in key physical exercises such as the functional fire skills test. Later reflecting on the event, Rodriguez noted the innate cultural and physical parallels between the military and the FDNY.

“There are so many similarities between what the military does and what the fire department does in their approach to training,” said Rodriguez. “There is a strict adherence to discipline, a strict adherence to safety, and a strict adherence to taking care of your people. And those are things we both really strive [for].”

According to Demetrius, the FDNY has recently welcomed an influx of veterans, particularly those who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and then transitioned to civilian positions upon returning home.

In high-stakes situations where precision and decision-making are imperative, veterans have a leg up on their fire school peers. “They bring the experience of how to stay calm in situations that are normally stressful,” Demetrius said.

“The biggest thing is the propensity to continue service post-military,” said Rodriguez, “and that doesn’t fade once you take off the uniform.” He added, “So finding an opportunity to continue to serve others as a firefighter or a policeman, or in the community in general, is something that most military veterans do.”

Helping wounded, ill, and injured service members position themselves for a new calling in the civilian world is an important part of the Office of Warrior Care Policy’s mission. Through Operation Warfighter, a federal internship program, and the Education and Employment Initiative, wounded, ill, and injured service members are provided with unique opportunities and customized resources to help prepare them for transition, while obtaining new knowledge, skills and abilities.

For more information on the Department of Defense’s Operation Warfighter and Education and Employment Initiative, visit: www.warriorcare.mil