While attending a ceremony in Denver this month to be honored as the Navy’s top enlisted firefighter of the year, Petty Officer 1st Class Shane Krueger, an aviation boatswains mate (handling) from the USS Kitty Hawk, earned an even greater honor.

He was picked from among the top firefighters in the armed forces, making him the Defense Department’s top enlisted firefighter for the year.

“He is a great sailor and a firefighter who knows his job well,” stated Daniel Martin, leading chief petty officer with the ship’s crash-and-salvage team, in a news release.

Krueger, 30, is the leading petty officer of the 22-person crash-and-salvage team, which is responsible for some of the most dangerous jobs aboard the ship: fighting deck fires, dealing with medical emergencies and salvaging damaged aircraft.

After serving in the Navy aboard the USS Independence, Krueger left the active Navy and became a civilian firefighter in Pensacola, Fla., while remaining in the Naval Reserve.

He was reactivated for Operation Iraqi Freedom and assigned to the Kitty Hawk, and has been aboard since.

Krueger was nominated by the former air boatswain, Lt. j.g. Gregory Curl.

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to Lt. j.g. Curl, who was a true mentor to me,” Krueger said in a statement. “This award will motivate me to grow and improve even more.”

Each year, the services select people and departments to honor at an awards banquet at the Department of Defense Fire and Emergency Services Training Conference, organized under the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

The conference also recognizes the top department, civilian firefighter, military and civilian fire officers and individual or group firefighter for acts of heroism.

At the conference this year, the Commander Naval Forces Japan department, which provides fire protection and prevention services at Yokosuka Naval Base, Atsugi Naval Air Facility, Sasebo Naval Base and Diego Garcia, accepted an award for the Navy’s Fire Prevention Program of the Year.

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