EGLIN AFB — A 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldier's volunteer work as a local firefighter has earned him one of the 2017 GEICO Military Service Awards.
Spc. Cody Kill, 21, has been working with the North Okaloosa Fire District, based at a station north of Crestview, almost since he arrived at the 7th Group's compound in 2015.
"A lot of times, on a four-day weekend, I'll stay at the fire department," Kill said.
Like other volunteers, when he's not at the station, Kill is alerted to fire and emergency calls via his cellphone. If he's not on duty, he'll respond. Because he is in the southern edge of the fire district's coverage area, he'll sometimes be first on the scene of an emergency call in that area. In that role, he can tell responding firefighters what kind of equipment and other resources they'll need at the scene, he said.
Volunteer firefighting is a familiar role for Kill. A native of the Midwest, he was a member of the volunteer departments in his two hometowns — Salina, Oklahoma, and Howard, Kansas — before joining the Army.
"A fire department is structured a lot like the military," Kill said.
That structure can be frustrating for Kill in his new home state, which requires more training than his work in the Midwest.
"Florida is really strict," he said.
The state requires full-fledged volunteers to have 200 hours of training. Thus far, Kill has gone through some first-responder training, and there are limits to what he can do at fire and emergency scenes. He can, for instance, fight brush fires, but he can't go inside a burning structure.
"I'm kind of like the water boy on a football team," he laughed.
Still, he puts a positive spin on the work he can do. Dragging hoses around a fire scene, Kill says, "is a pretty good workout."
And, he added, sweeping debris off the road at accident scenes is also valuable work, potentially helping to prevent other mishaps.
"Wrecks are a big thing I try to go to," he said.
The award, sponsored by the GEICO insurance company, is presented each year to one member of each branch of America's military services, including Reserve and National Guard troops. Kill is this year's Army winner.
The GEICO Military Service Awards program, supported by the GEICO Philanthropic Foundation, honors troops for achievements in any one of three areas: fire safety and fire prevention, drug and alcohol abuse prevention and traffic safety and accident prevention.
Kill was nominated for the award by his sergeant. Because his fellow volunteers do the work without recognition, Kill said he "felt kind of bad" about being nominated for the honor.
But, he said, after sharing his concerns with his sergeant, his outlook changed.
"I said, 'Put me in, coach,'" Kill said.
When his sergeant nominated him for the award, Kill didn't know that it would include a $2,500 honorarium. When he found out, he said, "I had to kind of sit down."
Asked what he plans to do with the money, Kill said, "Just save it, I guess."
Kill plans to spend a few more years in the Army, but says he has no plans to make a career of firefighting and emergency response after his military service. He is, though, likely to continue his involvement on a volunteer basis.
"Getting money would kind of take the motivation out of it," he said.