Robins sergeant named Military Fire Officer of the Year for the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Master Sgt. Shawn Ricchuito described the last year as lucky, though few Airmen would attribute luck as the reason the sergeant earned the title Air Force Military Fire Officer of the Year.

Instead, Airmen know the caliber of person and work required to be selected to represent the Air Force at the Department of Defense-level.

"This is something that a lot of people deserve. Its unfair only one person can win each year," Sergeant Ricchuito said.

He added he was "just lucky enough to be the one to garner the award."

Sergeant Ricchuito described the last year as a banner year where he will not only continue to compete for the DOD Military Fire Officer of the Year, but where he was also selected for promotion to senior master sergeant, earned a nomination for the Geico Fire Prevention and Safety Award and was named Air Force Materiel Command Senior NCO of the Year.

"Master Sgt. Ricchuito was recently selected for promotion to senior master sergeant. This promotion makes him eligible for jobs of more responsibility, allowing him to have an even greater impact on fire protection in the Air Force. With his promotion, he was selected to PCS (permanent change of station) to (to a base in Southwest Asia), as the Installation Fire Chief. Based on his previous performance, I am sure he will perform well as Fire Chief!" said Lt. Col. Steve Keller, commander of the 778th Civil Engineer Squadron.

Sergeant Ricchuito will receive the Air Force-level award at the Department of Defense Fire Rescue International Fire Chief's Conference in Atlanta, Aug. 20-25.

Sergeant Ricchuito said this award was special because the recognition comes from his peers, fellow firefighters.

"I do things because they need to be done and it's nice to know that I got recognized for doing things for the right reasons," he said.

Sergeant Ricchuito said he found out he was chosen at the Air Force-level when Robins Fire Chief Donald Striejewske entered a meeting he was attending and announced his win.

He said his first reaction was to ask Chief Striejewske if he was serious. But, when the chief assured him he was, all Sergeant Ricchuito could mutter was "outstanding."

He said not far behind was the realization that winning an Air Force-level award was probably going to cost more than a round of donuts for the fire crew.

The Robins firefighters have a long-standing tradition that any time one of the firefighters appears in the newspaper he has to provide a breakfast of donuts for his fellow firefighters, though Sergeant Ricchuito said the Air Force-level award merited something beyond donuts.

"This (his Air Force-level win) is going to cost big pizza, but it's worth it," he said.

He said although the guys at the fire station give him a hard time about all of his recent attention, they have been supportive during the entire process.

"The guys at work are really pumped up about it," Sergeant Ricchuito said.

Chief Striejewske described Sergeant Ricchuito as a great role model for the other Airmen and civilians who work with Robins Fire and Emergency Services.

"Master Sgt. Ricchuito is a motivated, energetic, and outstanding leader! Although he has only been here 1 and a half years, he has made a drastic impact in the fire department, increasing the safety of our firefighters and increasing fire protection across the installation. His leadership has inspired the Airmen in his flight, improving morale and instilling discipline and pride in his Airmen," Colonel Keller said.

Chief Striejewske said that it had been a great year for Robins Fire and Emergency Services and Sergeant Ricchuito's Air Force-level recognition was just the icing on the cake.

He credits Sergeant Ricchuito with turning the Robins training program around and as a key team member helping Robins earn the Chief Master Sgt. Ralph E. Sanborn Award for best Fire and Emergency Services in AFMC.

"When he arrived, the haphazard training program was in disarray, with virtually no documentation of firefighter training. Within 6 months of moving here, Master Sgt. Ricchuito's training program was evaluated by the UCI team, which noted a significant improvement since his arrival here at Robins," Colonel Keller said.

Chief Striejewske said this year was the first time Robins Fire and Emergency Services boasted both the AFMC Military Fire Officer of the Year and the AFMC Best Fire and Emergency Services of the Year since 1963.

"Although it is an individual award and I am proud to win it, there are a lot of people that have to support your programs and what you do to have them recognized at the Air Force level," Sergeant Ricchuito said.

But, Sergeant Ricchuito said without the support of his wife, Cindy and his two children Devin, 15, and Lakin, 8, he would have never been able to commit the time and effort needed to accomplish the tasks that led to his selection.

"I want to thank them for supporting me on those long hours it took to get these programs up and running," he said.