NSA Naples Fire Chief Retires after Over 37 Years of Service
16 December 2022
From Aaliyah Essex
Station Chief Raffaele Puzio celebrated over 37 years of service with Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples’ Fire and Emergency Services (FES) at his retirement ceremony onboard Support Site, Dec. 16, 2022.
Puzio was joined by his friends, family, colleagues, and base leadership to commemorate his career.
Commanding Officer of NSA Naples, Capt. James Stewart recognized Puzio for his career of service.
“It is a distinct opportunity to witness this final milestone in a 37 year career spent faithfully serving, leading and sacrificing as a firefighter. For nearly four decades, Raffaele has provided unwavering and professional support to both the Napoli and base community,” said Stewart.
During the ceremony, the station chief was awarded a Civilian Service Achievement Medal for his superior performance as a station chief and throughout his career.
“Puzio was vital to the many departmental accolades and distinguished achievements received throughout his years of service, to include selection as the U.S. Navy Small Fire Department of the Year in 2004 and 2021,” says NSA Naples’ Fire Chief Nicholas Panzica.
The award notes Puzio was a key contributor to the department's fire accreditation program resulting in the Center of Public Safety Excellence, and the Commission on Fire Accreditation International unanimously awarding U.S. Naval Support Activity, Naples, Italy with accredited agency status.
Puzio began working for as a firefighter for FES when he was 24 years old on May 15, 1985.
After 13 years, he was promoted to the rank of captain. He served as one of two captains for over 13 years before being promoted to the supervisory role of Fire Chief.
Throughout his time with FES, Puzio recalls serving in various emergencies that he describes as memorable moments in his career.
Specifically, he recalls responding to a medical emergency that resulted in saving the lives of a family, including three children and a mother.
Puzio also mentioned participating in the emergency response efforts in September 2004 after a fire broke out at the Support Site Navy Exchange (NEX) and Commissary complex onboard Support Site. Due to the response of Puzio and his team, the fire was contained and not spread to other areas on the base.
FES leadership credits Puzio with being a pivotal link between the base and Italian fire authorities.
Most recently, he served in this capacity and received an award for his participation in extinguishing fires that spread in the hills of Pozzuoli surrounding Carney Park in June 2022.
FES joined the efforts to fight the fires for two days. As the growing wild fires spread outside of the base, Panzica recalls Puzio coming to him early in the morning requesting to work with the Italian forces to bring in helicopters.
Panzica says after receiving necessary permissions, Puzio took action coordinating with local authorities to secure all equipment needed to effectively execute water supply to extinguish the wild fires.
Panzica added that this was one of many instances where Puzio used his expertise to serve the Italian community.
“Not only does he do his job to protect base operations and serve the military community, he also [uses] his knowledge and expertise and the resources we have here for the Commanding Officer to send [FES] out in town to assist in mitigating [local] issues as well,” said Panzica.
Additionally, Assistant Chief of Training Benjamin Dohm recognized Puzio as the liaison to coordinate with Italian authorities in situations where the base needs outside assistance.
“As a chief officer, he is a liaison between our fire department and the Vigili del Fuoco, the Italian Fire Department,” said Dohm.
Dohm explained that Puzio has played a key role when FES has had situations like the 2004 NEX fire, by coordinating with the Vigili del Fuoco when FES needed additional support.
Dohm described Puzio as someone who always put the safety of his firefighters and the community first. Dohm described Puzio’s efforts during the COVID-19 restriction of movement period as an example of this.
“During COVID, Puzio ensured all the Italian firefighters had the proper PPE. He ensured that safety was always as the forefront and his guys were equipped with everything they needed to combat the virus when we were called to help those who were infected.”
“He’s been very instrumental in mitigating various types of emergencies on base,” said Dohm.
FES leaders say his leadership, mentorship and expertise will be missed.
Puzio’s direct supervisor, FES Assistant Chief Boccolino Vincenzo explained what Puzio’s retirement means to him after working at FES with him for nearly four decades.
“We started working here together. He came in May 1985, I came in June 1985. So, we both started our career together and we have worked on the same shift for over 25 years,” said Assistant Chief Boccolino Vincenzo. “I will miss his cooperation and how he understands our mission and mentors younger firefighters.”
Vincenzo added that over the last 37 years, himself and Puzio have become family.
The fire chief will officially retire on Dec. 31, 2022.
Puzio says he will miss his job, friends, colleagues and the command.
“I am looking forward to the lifestyle change but, after 37 years, [the command] is a part of me that I will always remember,” said Puzio.
NSA Naples is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied, and partner nation forces to be where they are needed, when they are needed to ensure security and stability in the European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility.
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