by Ryan Labadens, US Navy Public Affairs
Deep within a throng of shuffling and sweating bodies panting and pushing toward a distant finish line, a man falls and lays motionless on the pavement in the middle of the Crescent City Classic 10K in New Orleans, La.
As the crowd swirled and passed around him like a panicked school of fish, a masked man stooped over him and began to check for breathing or a pulse. When no breathing or pulse was found, the dark knight caped crusader began life saving CPR until a paramedic crash team working the race could arrive and hook up a portable defibrillator. Batman hopped onto the ambulance and rode to the hospital. When the ER doctor arrived, the masked man gave a situation field report. Astonish, the doctor asked, “Who are you?” At that point T.J. Maury, the new fire chief who just took control of the Naval Construction Battalion Center replied. “I’m Batman,” and made his way back to the finish line of the race in his costume.
That scenario occurred several years ago, but due to the philosophy that Maury lives his life by, it could’ve easily been a scene from any point of his professional life.
“My wife has just kinda just expects it now. We can’t seem to go anywhere without something happening,” said Maury.
For another example of how Maury continues to hone his branding as a local superhero, Maury jumped into action during a family tubing outing when a man fell out of his tube while suffering from a heart attack. Maury pulled the man to the nearest shore and began immediate first aid measures. Another moment of Maury’s heroics showed up while on a cruise when the Maury family was relaxing on a beach. A few yards away, a man began suffering from what would have been a fatal heart attack. During CPR, Maury was able to bring the man back to consciousness while his internal defibrillator began to defibrillate him.
“It was difficult. We were both getting shocked by the device,” said Maury.
Maury’s long path of saving lives began 18 years ago when he got a job as an apprentice firefighter at the Bridge City Volunteer Fire Company. The station was a combination department staffed with one full-time paid firefighter and one part-time volunteer. According to Maury, it was a community-run fire department, which meant that if you were on duty, you would take the fire truck and hope some people would show up to help you.
His early experiences in the industry over-prepared him for staff shortages in the future.
“Now when we are staffed with six firefighters, I laugh and think about my past experience of just hoping for someone to show up and help,” said Maury.
Maury worked at Bridge City until Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area in South Louisiana. Once the storm cleared and things began to return to a semblance of normal, Maury jumped at the chance to work as a firefighter at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.
“In all the bad that happened with Katrina, it opened up an opportunity at the base,” Maury said.
Once he became a federal employee and more training opportunities were afforded to him, Maury began working his way up the ladder by building experience and credentials. He put himself through paramedic school, which he felt would open doors to bigger and better things. Later in his career, Maury became the station’s training officer and then eventually became a fire chief.
“I decided to become a paramedic because it is the highest level of medical service that can be provided outside of a hospital and it is frankly the hardest thing you can do,” said Maury. “EMS is always something I enjoyed doing. Within the fire department there are three pillars of the fire services, paramedic/EMS, hazmat and fire. I chose the EMS route.”
Maury worked hard every day to build upon his knowledge and expertise, knowing it would someday lead to an ultimate goal.
“My dad always told me. Make yourself useful…make them need you,” he explained.
Maury went on to win the 2017 Previous Civilian Fire Officer of the Year award for the Navy.
While he was in D.C. to receive his award, he got a phone call from his doctor. The doctor gave the bad news over the phone that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
Maury went through treatments and the cancer is in remission, but during the ordeal he was tricked into going onto Mike Rowe’s Facebook series titled “Returning the Favor.”
“That was an amazing experience. That show, those people are genuine. Mike Rowe, he is a good dude,” said Maury.
As a part of the show, Rowe gave Maury a sizable donation from the show to help pay medical bills.
As the new NCBC fire chief, Maury has big plans. Just like any thorough leader, he is currently conducting assessments of where the fire department stands in regards to training, equipment and readiness. His desktop is covered with bar graphs and pie charts explaining strengths and weaknesses of the department at a quick glance.
“My goal is to build upon the successes this department already celebrates, but also work toward bringing the department to the next level with execution,” he said.
Future goals involve external engagements with local partners in the community since NCBC relies on mutual aid support in the event of a catastrophe.
“It is important that I build upon those relationships and continue to solidify our agreements and common operational practices,” said Maury.