Seymour adds firefighter to department


Seymour’s newest firefighter can still remember visits to his grandparents’ house on the weekends when he was younger.

Ryan Sterling looked up to his grandfather, Leon Schlehuser, who served as a firefighter with Columbus Fire Department.

Some days Schlehuser would be home and other days he would be at the department, tasked with the job of helping people in their time of need.

That made an impression on the young Sterling.

“That put a drive into me where I wanted to experience that and have that kind of life,” he said. “I always wanted to be a firefighter.”

His grandfather has since retired from the department. Sterling, however, recently joined Seymour Fire Department as a firefighter, which has made his family — particularly his grandfather — very proud.

“It’s pretty important to be here and I think he is proud of it,” the 31-year-old said this past week during his first 24-hour shift.

While Sterling has always wanted to be a firefighter, he’s spent most of the last eight years working for Cummins Inc. and has taken a few different routes to make his way to Seymour Fire Department.

When he graduated from high school, Sterling pursued a degree in diesel technology at Northwestern Ohio University since firefighters are required to be 21 or older.

He then became a mechanical engineering technical support specialist at Cummins and did prototype engine building and testing of engines.

Sterling then entered an apprenticeship program and ended up managing a research and test cell at Seymour Engine Plant for the 95-liter engine.

His next career move was becoming a service trainer on the customer service side of that product.

That job required him to travel all over country and travel abroad.

He also studied at Indiana Wesleyan University and earned a bachelor’s degree in business management.

About two years ago, Sterling, who lives in Brownstown, began considering pursuing his dream of becoming a firefighter.

“I decided I was at least going to give it a try and go after my ultimate dream of the job I wanted to retire from,” he said.

After a discussion with his wife, Rachel, she told him he should pursue it. There were many things to consider because the couple have a toddler, Noah, and their family was expected to grow. The couple had twins earlier this spring.

“This is a transition for Rachel too; a major one, but she is a very strong person,” he said. He said the couple is lucky because both sets of grandparents live in Seymour.

“We actually have them fighting over who gets to see them , so I have a great support system,” he said jokingly.

So in those two years he spent preparing to fulfill his dream as a firefighter. He joined the Brownstown Township Volunteer Fire Dept. and began completing the training requirements to become a firefighter.

“I spent about a year going through all the training and finished this spring,” he said.

He joined Seymour Fire Department and has already participated in a few runs. Serving the community he grew up in also is special.

“It’s very special to serve here because I have a ton of friends and family in Seymour,” the 2005 Seymour High School graduate said. “When I thought about pursuing this, I wanted to be able to provide for my family and also provide for other people and you can’t get a better career than that.”

Since he has joined the department he has found how helpful the other firefighters are, showing him how things work and giving him bits of information to make him better.

“Everyone is great and everyone is all good to each other and helpful,” he said. “They want to make sure you know everything you need to know.”

Some of his experience from Cummins is a major benefit too, like experience in interacting all kinds of different people. He has met a lot of people across the country and the world and has even had to speak through a translator to pass on technical information, which wasn’t easy to do.

He anticipates that to be great experience for a firefighter.

“When you get a call, you never know who it’s going to be,” he said.

Some of the best experience Sterling has as he prepares for a career as a firefighter was found all those years ago while spending time with his grandfather.

“I have pictures of me with him at the fire station back then and I hope when my kids get older that I can have pictures of them with me too,” he said. “There seems to be a tradition now that makes it really special.”

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