Joint Force Headquarters –
Joshua Roth had just completed his shift as a firefighter with the St. Louis Fire Department on Aug. 15, 2019 prepared to do some work on the bathroom of his newly purchased house. Before he was very far into the project, he received a call; it was the department offering him some overtime. He accepted the offer and made his way to the station. The day started slowly so he decided to hop on a treadmill to exercise. After completing a couple of miles, the alarm sounded, and it was time to work. He jumped off the treadmill, grabbed his equipment and raced to the scene.
Roth’s crew for the event was the third on the scene, according to their operating procedures; this made them the backup water crew. In most cases, the first two crews on the ground would have found any victims and efforts would have turned to minimizing damage. While Roth was manning a hose, he saw another first responder carrying a child out. Realizing the situation had taken a turn, Roth dropped the hose and made his way to where the child was found. Roth soon located another child in a closet, picked her up, and made his way out of the building to render medical aid, since he is also an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
As a firefighter and EMT, Roth says it is not uncommon to resuscitate 6-8 adults in a day of work.
“It is second nature, but with a child (he thought), how can I do this by myself? A slow heart rate on a child, which is usually much higher than adults… children have limited oxygen, I gotta act quickly!”
He alternated between bag compressions and chest compressions until concern for the child’s heart rate prompted him to focus only on breathing. Ultimately, Roth was able to resuscitate the girl and once she was stable enough, he carried her back to the medical team that had been assembled to respond. Roth’s drive to be ready for anything, his ability to adapt, and his consistent training saved this girl’s life. It was for these reasons he received the Governor’s Medal in October 2020.
“It seems not enough, to just recognize you today… for the people receiving these awards today, it is about what you do every day that really counts,” said Governor Parson addressing the award recipients.
A Media release from the Governor’s office described the combined effort of the five members of the St. Louis Fire Department during the 2019 event:
On Aug. 15, 2019, the St. Louis Fire Department was dispatched to a second floor apartment in Lafayette Square with smoke showing… the team located a total of four children under four years old in the smoke-filled rear bedroom… All of the children were rushed from the building. Three were in cardiac arrest, and one was semi-conscious… CPR was performed on three of the children in the front yard of the apartment building…With extreme professionalism… and in accordance with their training, the firefighters performing CPR acted with dispatch to carry the (resuscitated) children to the medic units.
Roth knew early on he wanted to serve the public. He followed the path set for him by his father, who was in the Army and stationed in Germany when Roth was born. Roth looked to the examples of both of his grandfathers as well. His paternal grandfather worked in the Army’s nuclear program. His maternal grandfather served in the Navy. This same grandfather also had a long career in the St. Louis Missouri Fire Department’s Rescue Squad.
The inspiring stories Roth grew up hearing left a lasting impression. So much so, that while he was working as a disc jockey at a National Guard Association Ball, he made contact with a National Guard recruiter. It wasn’t long before Roth enlisted, and was off to his military training to become a Quartermaster and Chemical Equipment Repairer in the Missouri Army National Guard in 2011.
Roth, like so many other citizen-soldiers, must be at the top of his game, in both military and civilian careers. Being ready is a state of mind as well as a lifestyle.
“You never know what is going to happen, when you’re going to be called. You have to stay prepared,” said Roth when describing being a guardsmen and first responder.
Roth vividly recalls the moment the National Guard’s motto “Always ready, always there,” really hit home. He recalled spending a drill weekend going over how to set up their military equipment for use, and the need to both maintain equipment and stay prepared. Shortly following drill, his unit was activated for a state emergency and he was given an hour to gather his belongings and get to his armory. Celebrating nine years in the Guard this month, the readiness lifestyle is nothing new to Roth. Throughout his military career, he stayed prepared for annual training events in places like Guatemala and Germany and remained ready for state emergencies and deployments to Kuwait and Iraq.
“The beauty of the Guard is the diverse background. You never know what the uniform beside you is bringing to the table. Guardsmen stand up quick and have lots of knowledge,” said Roth.
While Sgt. Roth’s civilian and military careers do not currently coincide, he hopes that one day they will. He wants to continue to be “Always ready, always there” but hopes to bring his skill as an EMT to the forefront of his military career by transitioning to a new role as a flight medic.