Absent, but not gone – Hobart firefighter, sergeant leaves for assignment in Texas
By Heather Graves
HOBART – For the past two years, Sergeant First Class and Green Bay West graduate Mike Krueger has served as a member of the volunteer Hobart Fire Department – a role he said he has cherished.
“Ever since I got hired, the fire department has been one big family, which I love,” he said.
Unfortunately, earlier this week, Krueger had to say goodbye to his firefighting family for the next couple years, as he embarks on his final two-year assignment with the U.S. Army in Lovick, Texas.
But for this Northeast Wisconsin-native, the goodbye is only temporary.
“As soon as I get back to Hobart, I will definitely be back on the team,” Krueger said.
Career in the U.S. Army
Growing up in Green Bay, Krueger said he signed up for the U.S. Army as a junior in high school.
“I went to Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training between my junior and senior years, and then came back for my last year of high school,” he said. “As soon as I got done with high school, that’s when I spent almost four years in South Korea, where I served as a mechanic for a medical unit.”
It was in South Korea where Krueger said he met his now wife, Kyong.
“When I was assigned to Korea, my wife was attending school in Seoul, South Korea, for dance, and she actually worked right outside the base,” he said. “We just kind of hit it off right from the start. And we literally began every single day getting to know each other – getting married two-and-a-half years later.”
When Krueger and his wife returned to the states, he entered the Army Reserves and was assigned to the 377th Maintenance Company in Manitowoc.
“I was there for about a year-and-a-half before I went back on active duty for recruiting,” he said.
Over the next several years, Krueger and his family – which now includes two boys, Alex, 9, and Ethan, 12 – spent time in California, Rice Lake, Wisconsin, and Dallas before returning to Green Bay in 2018.
“I’ve been in Green Bay for about four years,” he said. “Now I just got (assigned) to Lovick, Texas, and this will be my last stint with the U.S. Army before retiring.”
Making the best of things
Krueger said while not always ideal, he and his family have become “pros” at living the military life – moving to a new place every few years.
However, he said this move is different.
“We have kind of learned how to not get attached to an area quite so much,” he said. “But, this is a totally different move. Because, for one, we’re keeping our house here so we’re going to be able to come back. And also, this is home for us. We love the area. We love the people around here. And this move is a little different, because we know we’ll be coming back.”
One thing Krueger said he isn’t looking forward to about the move itself is “just having to pack all the boxes up.”
“It’s not easy having to move your entire household every couple of years, especially with the family,” he said.
Krueger said his family takes full advantage of exploring and immersing themselves into the communities they have been stationed.
“We really try to explore the different areas we are in, and that is something we have done with every single move we’ve had,” he said. “Like, I’ve never been to New Mexico, and we’ll be about an hour and a half away from the New Mexico border, which I really want to explore.”
Krueger said his duties as a recruiter in Lovick will be similar to those he had in Green Bay.
“Nothing is really going to change too much with that,” he said.
He said his volunteer firefighting, however, might have to go on a two-year hiatus.
“As for the fire department, once I get down there, I am going to try and find a department,” Krueger said. “But Lovick is a pretty good size city at around 230,000 people, so they (will likely) have a full-time department. So, I might not be able to do that down there.”
Krueger said though he is excited about this new adventure his family will have, he looks forward to returning to Hobart when he wraps up his career with the U.S. Army.
“Especially being a member of the Hobart Fire department, I think it’s so important to give back to your community, and I try to do as much as I can,” he said.
Before leaving, Krueger was part of the public education team.
“So, I would go into schools and educate the children about fire safety,” he said. “I think it’s really important to start at a young age, and I enjoyed having fun with all the kids.”
Krueger said he plans to continue his work with public education when he returns to Hobart.
Fire Chief Jerry Lancelle said Krueger has always brought a great amount of energy to the department and was always the first to jump in and get dirty.
“He will be missed during his time away, but we’ll be looking forward to having him back,” he said.