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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Female firefighter blazes her own trail

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | August 7, 2015

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Dressed in bunker gear – a jacket, pants, boots and air mask, one could not tell the difference between Megan Cornell and her fellow firefighters at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany’s Fire Department. And that’s the way she likes it.

Cornell is the recipient of MCLB Albany’s Firefighter of the Year Award for 2015; Public Safety Division Civilian Employee of the Year for 2015 and the Marine Corps Firefighter of the Year Award for 2015.

John Phillip Partin, fire chief, Fire and Emergency Services, MCLB Albany, said Cornell’s passion, teamwork and initiative to continuously seek opportunities to better herself as a firefighter and leader makes her stand out amongst her peers.

“She works well with all personnel within the fire department and is often seen assisting fellow firefighters,” Partin said. “Megan teaches CPR/AED training, works with the public and is dedicated to the Marine Corps fire service and the families that she is supporting.”

Cornell joined the MCLB Albany F&ES in February 2013 and currently serves as a firefighter/nationally registered emergency medical technician – basic.

“I'm honored and feel privileged to represent MCLB Albany and my department as a part of this recognition,” Cornell said. “As a firefighter, you learn early on that it takes a team to be successful, not only while responding to a fire or incident, but each and every day. We have each other's backs, and I'm proud to be part of my team, my department and MCLB Albany.”

Cornell is the only female firefighter within the MCLB Albany F&ES.

“I don't see myself or my co-workers in terms of male or female - only as individuals committed to the profession of fire protection and prevention, while ensuring our family here at MCLB Albany receives the best possible support and service to maintain a safe and incident-free environment across the installation,” she said.

Cornell noted her co-workers, supervisors and leadership treat her no differently than they would any other firefighter in the department.

“Performance of my duties every day would be no different, whether male or female, (because) my team (and I) strive to do our best every day to represent our department and MCLB Albany, in the best manner possible,” she said.

While juggling her daily firefighter duties, Cornell is enrolled in Western Governors University in Salt Lake, Utah, and is scheduled to complete a Bachelor of Science in business management in October.

She is married to fellow firefighter/EMT, Sean Cornell, and they have two children. 

Sean met his now wife in 2007 while working as a contract firefighter in Iraq and they have been married for 8 years.

He said his wife is a hard worker who takes her job very seriously and strives to be the best.

“What makes her stand out is that she can do any job that is asked of her in the fire department; most men can't even do that,” he said. “I believe she was chosen for many reasons, but over all, she is extremely good at her job, she shows professionalism at all times and she treats everyone with care and respect.”

Sean added she stands out among her peers and is a good example for others working in the fire department to follow.

He portrayed his spouse as a good firefighter, person, wife and mother.

“She juggles all of these things better than I think I would or could,” he said.  “She is an amazing role model, especially to our daughter who loves the fact that mommy does her job better than most of the boys.”

Sean, who said he may be a little biased, added “she is an amazing person and I am extremely proud of her accomplishments.”

Cornell’s recent top-level awards add to a list of achievements she has earned during her 14-year career as a firefighting professional.

She began her firefighting career in 2001 as an active-duty airman at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, with follow-on assignments at Kunsan Air Base, Korea, and Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. 

Upon completion of her military service, Cornell deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, as a contract firefighter and prevention specialist in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There she provided emergency response and EMT support services within the green zone in Central Baghdad, Iraq.

In 2009, after returning from Iraq, she began her civil-service career as a fire protection inspector at Fort Carson, Colorado.

In February 2013, Cornell joined MCLB Albany Fire Department as a fire protection inspector and immediately made an impact by developing a detailed fire prevention training program for military and civil-service personnel, according to Partin.

In February 2014, she transitioned to her current role of firefighter/EMT-B, which includes but is not limited to firefighting, hazardous materials incidents, emergency medical services, confined space rescue operations and public education.    

Cornell describes firefighting as exciting, ever-changing and highly rewarding profession that brings new training, opportunities and challenges each day.
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