Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fort Lee emergency medic always on point

Fort Lee emergency medic always on point
Photo By Terrance Bell | Fort Lee firefighter and paramedic Stephen Steele, Jr., stands by an ambulance he works on from fire station 2 and assists patients with medical care during transport to a medical facility.
Story by Lesley Atkinson
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs
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FORT LEE, Va. (May 11, 2017) -- Fellow workers describe fifth-generation firefighter Stephen Steele Jr. as “one of the best emergency medics at Fort Lee.”

Setting aside the hard-to-overlook fact that he has been in the business since age 12, Steele’s professional qualifications speak for themselves. He is a nationally registered paramedic with certifications in nine associated specialties that qualify him as an instructor and emergency medical technician. He is a member of the HAZMAT team and serves as the supply coordinator for the department.

“Emergency response is in my blood,” said the seven-year post employee assigned to Fire Station 2. “I started as a youth volunteer working with my brother and father at a station back home in Long Island, N.Y. As soon as I turned 18, I was hired on as a regular firefighter and have been doing that ever since.”

Work associates also describe Steele as a “quiet professional” who doesn’t always get recognized for his accomplishments because he avoids the limelight. That aspect of his character became evident as he talked about his career and often opted for precise “yes ma’am” responses to probing questions. He said he views such discussions as bragging and chooses to avoid them.

Steele’s transition from New York to Virginia was a cost of living decision. He first settled down in Smithfield and took a job with the Newport News fire department. A few years later, he was hired by the Fort Lee Fire Department.

On duty, Steele works a 48-hour shifts where he alternates between a fire truck and ambulance. Off duty, he spends time with his wife and two children, while maintaining a lawn care business.

One of the aspects he likes most about his emergency response job is being able to interact with other jurisdictions within the community.

“We get many different calls on the emergency service and fireside. It is exciting,” he said. “We sometimes get requests off-post daily. Just recently, we went to Colonial Heights for a serious medical emergency and we ended up transporting the patient for them.”

At Fort Lee, Steele is responsible for the ambulances on post and ensures they are fully stocked and ready to serve the population. During a crisis, he’s in charge of the ambulance and assesses and initiates appropriate medical care and selects the appropriate receiving facility within the local community. Steele also plans EMS training for the unit monthly.

Assistant Fire Chief Christopher Steckel, Training Division Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services, said Steele is a hard worker who is dedicated to mission success.

“No matter the task is day or night, he completes the duty giving more than what you ask for,” he said. “He is probably the best medic in the organization. He leads, instructs and mentors new medics. I have responded to many calls with Stephen.

“With a life hanging in the balance and the scene sometimes in chaos,” he continued, “Stephen’s professional, confident attitude brings calm to the chaos and reflects on everyone. This aids in scene management and can even save a life.”

Steckel also praised Steele for his commitment to the team, and ever-present smile on his face and a willingness to make time for others. The tight-knit group in the department often compares their co-workers to a family.

Steele said he has no plans of leaving and will continue carrying on his family legacy. He especially enjoys serving veterans.

“It‘s a great feeling,” he said. “They do so much for our country. They deserve the best care possible.”

This is the last installment of a Traveller story series focusing on individuals who work “behind the scenes” at Fort Lee shopping, dining, and recreational facilities.