What inspires or motivates a person to want to help others in need? Putting someone else’s life above his own or doing whatever he can to save them when they’re in dire straits? These brave men and women who dedicate their time, effort and energy share their abilities to ensure the safety and well-being of others. Matthew Heindrichs is one of those people.
Heindrichs, who is a systems safety engineer for the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s (NSWCDD) Platform Systems Integration Branch, spends his personal time as a certified active member of the Rescue Team of Advanced Life Support (ALS) and volunteer firefighter for the Port of Aquia Volunteer Rescue Squad in Stafford.
For Heindrichs, every mission is essential, bringing rewarding experiences that reinforce his dedication to his rescue team and as a vital member of Dahlgren’s workforce. “I’m really a problem solver and enjoy interacting with people. Volunteering in this capacity, doing what I can and incorporating the skills I’ve learned to help someone, gives me balance and pushes me to keep going, personally and professionally,” Heindrichs said.
He first got involved in rescue missions in 2016 as a student while attending Virginia Tech, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. “Since my father was a firefighter for 25 years, helping people in need has always been part of my life,” he said. “When I was in college I took the opportunity to try out for the local rescue team and became part of an amazing team. It was a rewarding experience and I wanted to stay involved in this ability in my local community. He recently earned his master’s degree in robotic engineering from the Naval Post Graduate School.
The training and certification process that Heindrichs went through to achieve a high level of patient care took commitment and endurance. As an ALS squad member and firefighter, he has devoted countless hours to training and preparation while expanding his knowledge base. The result of his hard work is evident in his ability to provide advanced support in emergency situations, whether non-emergency care or life-threatening circumstances. Heindrichs is also licensed to operate various rescue vehicles, such as ambulances and fire engines.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Heindrichs worked around the clock, providing essential healthcare and fulfilling his duties as a systems security engineer for the warfare center. He reflected on the challenges he was facing and finding workable solutions saying, “We were experiencing such an increased volume of calls at that time. We had to observe careful health restrictions and regulations, including putting on extra protective gear and following strict disinfection and cleaning procedures for emergency vehicles. I had to find effective ways to fight the health crisis and make sure we did everything right.
Heindrichs attributes the effective balance between his career and volunteerism to the support and encouragement he received from his colleagues and leaders. “It became almost another full-time job for me, and I couldn’t have done it without the flexibility and understanding of my department and branch managers who supported me every step of the way.”
Heindrichs’ field expertise, abilities, and contributions through his volunteer efforts have not gone unnoticed by his peers and department leadership. As one of seven selected civilian nominees, Heindrichs received the NSWCDD Distinguished Community Service Award for his service and dedication to rescue missions. The award citation reads in part, “His commitment to the safety of others exemplifies the values of bravery and selflessness.”
“I’m truly honored for the recognition and appreciate the nomination,” Heindrichs said. “I often tell people who ask me about my rescue squad work that they can do what I do. trainer and treasurer of the rescue team.