Face of Defense: Army Reservist Doubles as Volunteer Firefighter
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --
Bill Coan has been a firefighter almost as long as he’s been alive, and would have started firefighting sooner if not for the age restriction.
Currently volunteering out of the Hurffville Fire Company at Station 10-3 in New Jersey, the 58-year-old Army Reserve noncommissioned officer started as a junior firefighter in National Park, New Jersey, at 16.
“It was a family thing,” he said. “My dad and three brothers were members. We were all in the same company in the same town we grew up in.”
In 1982, Coan’s natural tendency toward volunteerism and selfless service led him to join the Army Reserve as a military technician. He has held positions of mechanic, unit administrator and equipment specialist before settling into his current civilian role with the 99th Regional Support Command here as a traffic management specialist.
“I started here a year to the day this current location opened,” said Coan, who oversees the command’s fleet of vehicles.
Coan, who is also currently a sergeant first class eyeing military retirement in a couple of years, has completed two deployments, one during Desert Storm and one to Afghanistan. His dedication to civic service is similar to paths taken by his brothers.
“One is a retired Marine and one is a retired police officer down in Baton Rouge [Louisiana],” he said.
Coan has also served as an emergency medical technician and dispatcher, and he has been recognized for his work as a firefighter multiple times, but his most recent incident is still fresh in his mind.
Saving a Life
“I was on duty June 25 last year. We were dispatched for an unconscious person, and it was only a couple of blocks away from where we were,” he explained. “When we arrived, people were telling us they had just seen the guy thirty minutes earlier. We went into the house and saw he was in cardiac arrest, we started CPR.
“We shocked him three times waiting for EMS to arrive and continued to assist once paramedics got there,” he continued. “We found out a couple of days later that he did survive.”
The normally quiet Coan opened up when asked why being a firefighter is special to him.
“It’s rewarding because you see the good and the bad -- it’s always better to see the good,” he explained. “Over the years, I’ve delivered babies and that’s great, but when you actually save a life, that’s special.”