College of Southern Maryland (CSM) alumnus retired Fire Chief George Kennett, of Avenue, was inducted into the United States Navy Fire and Emergency Services Hall of Fame this spring.
“I was honored and humbled,” said Kennett, who retired from Naval Air Station/Naval District Washington Fire & Emergency Services in 2008, after more than 29 years of service. His last 12 years of work he served as the installation’s fire chief and deputy fire chief for Naval District Washington.
Kennett was the 41st inductee to the hall of fame, which was created in 2003 to recognize significant and distinguished contributions to the Navy Fire and Emergency Services.
Kennett points to his education at CSM and beyond as critical to his success in the fire service, and he offered advice to others interested in entering the field.
“Education truly is the key to your successful career,” he said. “Maintaining a good work ethic, clean personal record, and a ‘can-do’ mindset will also help you climb the ladder to success.”
Kennett’s association with CSM began in the 1970s, when he transferred from the University of Maryland, College Park, to study fire science at CSM, then called Charles County Community College. Kennett graduated in 1978 and began his career.
“The overall fire science curriculum boosted my knowledge and better prepared me for a career position in the fire service,” Kennett said of his studies at CSM. “Being able to get my EMT while at CCCC was very helpful and was worth five credits at the time. I remained an EMT for 40 years.”
Later in his career, Kennett continued his education, earning a bachelor’s degree from University of Maryland University College in 1988 and a master’s degree from Florida Tech in 2001. His education gave him “a huge advantage” as he moved up the ranks, he said. “An associate degree provides a great springboard in most careers,” he added, noting that he was one of the few chief fire officers in the Navy Fire Service with a master’s degree.
During Kennett’s award-winning career, he worked his way up through the ranks from firefighter starting in 1978 to fire chief, from 1996 to his retirement in 2008. During his career, which was all spent at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, he also ‘dual-hatted’ as the regional fire chief for Naval District Washington after leading his department through regionalization in 2005. He also held the positions of fire inspector/fire investigator, chief fire inspector and assistant chief of suppression during his rise to fire chief.
Kennett earned numerous awards throughout his career, including a Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, performance awards, Internationally Accredited Fire Officer and Southern Maryland Volunteer Firemen’s Association Hall of Fame Inductee in 1999. Kennett tipped his hat to others around him who helped him succeed at his work.
“Having great coworkers and employees during my career certainly made myself more successful and the Navy fire and emergency services are the best,” he said.
Serving as firefighters and in emergency services is a Kennett family tradition.
“I actually followed in my dad and older brother’s footsteps — both were volunteer firefighters, while my brother was also a career firefighter/driver-operator at Patuxent River Naval Air Station for 25 years,” Kennett said. “My dad had 54 years in volunteer fire/EMS and was a charter/life member of our local volunteer fire department and rescue squad. My mom had served in the fire department ladies auxiliary for some years. Now, my youngest son is a volunteer [with more than 10 years of service], as well as a career nationally registered EMT for Charles County Department of Emergency Services. My daughter is an RN, currently in a supervisory capacity. Therefore, we have three generations serving [our communities] in fire/EMS.”
For more about Kennett’s hall of fame honor, see https://www.navy.mil/Press-Office/News-Stories/Article/2535029/commander-navy-installations-command-announces-fire-and-emergency-services-awar/.
For more about CSM’s fire science technology program, visit https://www.csmd.edu/programs-courses/credit/school-of-professional-technical-studies/fire-science.html.