Chaplain Joe on the Behind the Shield podcast
Chaplain Joe on the Yucked Up podcast
Joe LaCognata is the Founder and President of Fire Rescue Support, Inc. Joe started his involvement with emergency services in 1986 as a volunteer firefighter and EMT. Since becoming a pastor in 1994, his connection with emergency services has been through the chaplaincy with both police and fire departments. Joe currently serves as Chaplain with Marion County Fire Rescue, Ocala Fire Rescue, The Villages Department of Public Safety, the Florida State Fire College, and the Florida Fire Chiefs Association. Joe is also the Statewide Chaplaincy Coordinator with the Florida Firefighter Health and Safety Collaborative.
Joe has completed Basic Chaplain training through the International Fellowship of Chaplains. He is an Approved Instructor in Individual and Group Crisis Intervention with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation and has his Certification in Critical Incident Stress Management from the University of Maryland Baltimore County Department of Emergency Health Services. Joe is an Endorsed Chaplain with the North American Mission Board and a Master Fire Chaplain with the Federation of Fire Chaplains. Joe holds a PhD in Educational Leadership from Illinois State University and is an Instructor III with the Florida Fire Service.
Joe has been married to Kim since 1985 and they are the proud parents of five amazing children and two wonderful sons-in-law.
In addition to his leadership, the following people make up the Fire Rescue Support Board of Directors…
Fire Rescue Support was founded on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America. While this day will be forever etched in our minds, those serving in fire rescue deal with similar issues every day. Although not of the magnitude of 9/11, fire rescue personnel face challenges every time they leave the station. It is for this reason that Fire Rescue Support was born.
Before the call is when Fire Rescue Support invests in fire rescue personnel and their families. Although they spend a great deal of time training and preparing for all they encounter at work, little is invested in what they will encounter beyond the job. Fire Rescue Support is filling in this gap by providing resources to help those serving in fire rescue be more successful on the job and in life.
Specifically, Fire Rescue Support is involved with…
During the call is a critical time for both fire rescue personnel and the people they serve. Fire Rescue Support is on the frontline supporting first responders in the field. Whether the incident is large or small, those serving in fire rescue respond to meet the needs of people in the midst of a challenging time and Fire Rescue Support is there.
Specifically, Fire Rescue Support is involved with…
After the call is when Fire Rescue Support provides ongoing care and assistance to fire rescue personnel and their families. It’s not over once the fire is out, the scene is cleared and everyone is back at the station. Depending on the severity of the call, first responders may need to process what they experienced. But even less significant incidents create difficulties and stress over time. Fire Rescue Support will be there today, tomorrow and beyond.
Specifically, Fire Rescue Support is involved with…
“The chaplain’s role in the fire service is a necessary one due to the traumatic incidents we deal with. It helps citizens, EMS and firefighters cope with some of the extraordinary situations we have to mitigate, no matter what that persons religious background may be. I believe that after meeting Joe LaCognata he has the compassion and understanding to help get some people through these difficult times they will face."
“An emergency isn’t dealt with until the human element is dealt with by a professional. The Marion County Fire Rescue Chaplain program is essential to the proper response for the human condition. A chaplain plays an integral role in scene mitigation as an advocate for both victim and responder alike. Having a champion to support our moral needs is a proven blessing when dealing with life’s differing tragedies.”
“The need for a full time Chaplain is long over due. As I have seen throughout the years, the need for counseling is just one major area which will help all our firefighters. I have seen many relationships broken due to the type of work we do. Also in this field, there are many times families lose loved ones; there is no one better than a chaplain who knows just how to handle the situation.”
“What Chaplain Joe LaCognata is doing for MCFR is essential for the stability and the future of every employee that steps foot in a MCFR unit. We are privileged to have such a wonderful godly man to be there for us when we need him the most, while on or off shift.”
“In my opinion, the Chaplain position is a critical part in being “Partners with our Community” which is advertised on the side of every rescue unit in MCFR. During times of crisis, as a Firefighter, my focus is on scene safety, safety of my crew and I, and ensuring we give the task at hand our very best. The Chaplain fills a great void on many emergency scenes where it is impossible for a firefighter to engage the family of a patient, witnesses of a horrific traffic accident, or simply bringing a Fireman a glass of water after emerging from the intense heat of a structure fire. On a personal level, if we need a person to step in and just listen after a tough call, give us advice in our personal lives, and even spiritual guidance and support, the Chaplain is one of us! He understands us, our humor, and our needs after the smoke has cleared. Thank you very much for considering supporting this much needed service we as firefighters feel is a key role in providing the very best to our citizens. Without your support, a piece of the puzzle will be missing. Again, we thank you, our families at home thank you, and sadly, the mother who lost her child in a vehicle crash thanks you.”
"Our Chaplain brings more to the table than most are aware of. Not only is he someone I can talk to on duty but he is available when I am off duty as well. He has personally guided me through a tough time in my life, and he has been there for many of my brother firefighters on stressful emergencies."
“I have been a supporter of the valuable service that Joe LaCognata has been providing since becoming a part of Marion County Fire Rescue. For too long firefighters, as well as their families, have been forgotten during personal tragedies. Firefighters also deal with stress after returning from devastating on duty calls. Joe has stepped up to fill a void by becoming an advocate for the needs of the firefighters as well as the families in our community.”
“When I first met Joe, my fiancé and I were looking for a minister to marry us. We were told about the possibility of Marion County adopting a chaplain and I felt like this would be a perfect solution. Joe did an amazing job at the wedding and we felt truly blessed to share this experience with him. I have seen Joe on a few emergency scenes in the past and he is always a beacon of light in the midst of tragedy. His strong voice and soft smile seem to bring a sense of peace to whoever he is helping, whether it is a responder or a family member of a victim. Joe, without a doubt, is a perfect fit for Marion County Fire Rescue and I look forward to many more years of his service.”
"Having an active Chaplain is something that will be a benefit to everyone in the Fire Department as well as the community. Being there and supporting each other is something common to all religions and a Chaplain is there to assist everyone, regardless of religion or beliefs. It is important for firefighters to have someone who is familiar with the culture of the Fire Department to talk to in trying times. While we have friends and family who are there for us, they might not understand or appreciate all of the issues like someone from within the Fire Department. career in the fire service can put unique strains on firefighters and their families. A FD Chaplain understands these issues and is able to be there for the firefighters and their families. While many Fire Departments are without, a Chaplain is an extremely important part of the department. A Chaplain strengthens the department by supporting each firefighter."
"I first met Joe LaCognata while attending the Church @ The Springs. Joe is an associate pastor at the church and he expressed an interest in participating in our chaplain program. Upon finding out that our department did not have such a program, Joe offered his services to start and oversee a chaplain program for our department. As firefighters, paramedics, and EMT’s we see and experience events that can have a detrimental impact on our health and our lives (death of a child, fatal accident, fire death, etc.). We may have a need to talk to someone who can listen, but it needs to be someone we know and can trust. Joe has worked hard create a great chaplain program for MCFR and to get to know each and every one of us. He often shows up at scenes and at stations in an effort to meet us. He believes that if we know him we will feel more comfortable talking to him in a time of need. With 30 stations and over 500 employees this is a huge task. In closing, having a chaplain by our side when we need it is a great asset. I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of having a chaplain not only on scenes, but in the personal lives of many of our MCFR employees. I support the chaplain program and believe it is a necessity in this profession. Joe has done an outstanding job in setting the foundation for our chaplain program. I fully support the future expansion of this program and feel that it will have a positive impact of many of our lives."
Having Joe on our more stressful incidents helps me focus on my command duties, as I know he is looking out for the emotional well being of my firefighters during, and after the event. On a more day to day basis, Joe is there for our men and women, regardless of their faith or beliefs, to go to him with problems and concerns. He fills a void which existed here and probably exists in many active departments.”
"This letter is meant to serve as my full endorsement in reference to Joe LaCognata as full time Department Chaplain. In the 30 year history of our department, this position has been needed and recently implemented. Most larger departments have full time Chaplains, as our department has grown to be one of the biggest in the state, this position has desperately been needed. A Department Chaplain is not only important to the firefighters professionally, but also personally. Professionally, I have known Joe LaCognata now for approximately 2 years. He assumed the position of Department Chaplain on a volunteer basis at that time. He has made every effort to visit with each of the stations and each shift to get better acquainted with personnel. He has responded to multiple major incidents and offered spiritual support not only for firefighters, but also for families of victims or critical patients. Until recently when he was provided with a department vehicle, he used his own vehicle and fuel. It is reassuring to know that no matter how bad the call may be, I have someone that I can call for spiritual guidance to help me through it. Personally I have gained much respect for Joe LaCognata. So much so, that I my family and I have become members at The Church at the Springs where he is a Pastor. Due to circumstances both professionally and personally, my marriage almost ended about a year ago. After trying marriage counseling and other avenues, we contacted Joe LaCognata. His guidance and assistance in helping us bring God back into our marriage saved our relationship. He put his own time with his family aside if we needed to talk in order to help my wife and I through our difficult time. I can never express enough how much his help is appreciated. If not for him coming into our lives, my wife and I would have become another divorce statistic. Because of his guidance, my wife and I have a very strong relationship and are raising our two children with a renewed faith in God. This is just my personal accounts of my experiences with Joe LaCognata. In my job, dealing with stress and major life and death situations, I feel that it would be a disservice to the department not to have a full time Chaplain. This position is just as important as any other position in the department. Joe LaCognata's dedication, caring and faith in God has been instrumental in my life. I can only imagine how many other lives he can touch in the department if given the chance."