Heroes Among Us Recognized at Space Center Houston
A unique group of Johnson Space Center team members united for a recognition ceremony in the parking lot of Space Center Houston on Jan. 23. Volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel were greeted by members of JSC senior management, including Steve Altemus, deputy center director; Debbie Conder, deputy director, External Relations Office; and Joel Walker, director, Center Operations. The event, organized by the JSC Safety Action Team (JSAT), symbolized the connection between JSC and the community, as well as the center’s dedication to safety.
The 27 volunteers who came out are employees who perform their “normal” day jobs and, additionally, volunteer in the community to protect and serve. These are the heroic people who risk their lives to rush into hazardous situations like burning buildings and severe weather conditions to rescue a stranger. The volunteers serve surrounding cities, including League City, Pearland, Nassau Bay, Forest Bend, Seabrook, Kemah, Pasadena and LaPorte.
Dominic Del Rosso is the Seabrook deputy fire chief and NASA Zero-G program manager. Del Rosso has worn many hats at JSC, and began volunteering in high school with a friend. He was hooked from then on, participating in fire department events every year since in both fire services and EMS.
“Only a year after getting my first medical certification, I received a personal thank-you letter from a mother whose drowning child I helped save,” Del Rosso said. “Being just 18, it really struck me that I was not just talking about doing something—I was actually making a positive difference in someone’s life.
“One of the most challenging events was hurricane Ike. I was Incident Commander for Seabrook and El Lago. Now I am working for Aircraft Operations, and I get to fly. I really enjoy the parabolic flights and the extreme high-altitude flights. Basically, I am checking off as many of my childhood dream jobs as I can,” Del Rosso said.
Nicole Laster is a part of the Expedition Training Requirements Integration Panel in the Missions Operations Directorate. Her team works with the international partners and NASA crew training instructors to maintain the International Space Station Crew Training Catalog. They also manage the generic template for total crew training hours in the training budget. Laster comes from a family of volunteers and, currently, is a lieutenant and has been a volunteer firefighter with Seabrook for 12 years. Laster said the “recognition was really nice” at Space Center Houston, and her department appreciated the kind words.
“The Fire Station was like my second home, and was where I first joined the volunteer ranks,” Laster said. “As far as I can remember, the volunteer fire department has been part of my life, so I guess I felt it should always be a part of it. I love to see the look on people’s face when I tell them I’m a firefighter for fun. It’s a second family. But when it comes right down to it, there is nothing like knowing you impacted someone’s life, whether it was saving their family photo from a fire or performing CPR to revive a loved one. We don’t do this for the recognition, but it is always welcomed.”
“As the JSAT Chair, I feel it is very important for the women and men who work on-site at JSC to have opportunities to meet and interact with our JSC Senior Staff, to be recognized for their contributions that make our working environment safer and to help us all learn and embed safety practices in our culture and daily lives,” said Patrick Buzzard.
Former astronaut Bill McArthur told the group of volunteers, “We simply couldn’t keep the center open without you; this is a community that is focused on keeping people safe.”
McArthur also commented that NASA is a direct part of the local community, and what these volunteers do “is a tremendous service, and we’re so very proud of them.”
“I sincerely appreciate the personal sacrifice and commitment shown by the volunteers of JSC,” Altemus said. “From the surrounding communities, they serve to respond to our needs here at JSC. But more than that, they dedicate their time and talent well above the needs of the center in their day jobs and serve to protect property and save lives in the community. They certainly embody the values and spirit that make JSC such a fantastic team. I’d like to thank them.”
Get to know more of the volunteers! Check out part II of “Heroes among us recognized at Space Center Houston” here...