Andrew Marsala knows what it means to be dedicated to saving lives.
Marsala, 42, was sworn in as a Matawan Borough Police Officer twelve years ago on Jan. 1, 1999. He has also been a certified emergency medical technician (EMT) since 2001, served on the Matawan First Aid and Rescue Squad from 2002 to 2004 and became a volunteer firefighter at Midway Engine Company in 2010.
But for him, it's all just part of the daily grind.
"That's why people take this job. They want to save lives and help people," Marsala said.
Marsala took his job as an officer and dedication to helping the citizens of Matawan to a new level when he helped create the Advanced Services Unit, a specialized unit of the police force that carries a wide variety of emergency response equipment. It enables the four officers in the unit to handle any emergency, including vehicle entrapments, ice rescues and water rescues.
The unit is headed by Sgt. Pat Walker. Officers Brian Murphy and Paul Ryba are also EMT certified and members of the Advanced Services Unit.
They wear special uniforms that are made from cotton and have sewn on badges to protect officers from potential dangers such as their uniforms melting or their badges getting caught.
Marsala recalls one time he ran into a burning home on Broad Street a few years ago and his uniform melted to his legs. As a police officer, he is often one of the first individuals on a scene.
"When we showed up the front corner of the house was engulfed in flames," Marsala said.
He broke down the back door of the house in an attempt to save a woman in the house. He wasn't able to reach her because of the heat and smoke, but the woman survived.
"I figured if I was going to be running into burning buildings, I might as well become a firefighter," Marsala said with a smile.
He also credits his choice to join as a volunteer firefighter to the fact that his best friend is also a firefighter at Midway Engine Company.
"He asked me to join and I couldn't say no," Marsala said.
Marsala knew he wanted to help people since he was a child. He wanted to become a police officer, but in his late teens he started to question whether it was the right career for him.
Instead, he went to Brookdale Community College and earned an associate's degree in math. He continued his education at Rugter's University but dropped out halfway through for financial reasons and decided to join the military.
After a few years of active service in the United States Airforce, Marsala did four years in the reserves, which helped him pay to finish his education in environmental science at Rutger's.
"My brother was a cop, and he was making more than I was working in a field that I got a four year degree four. I figured, I like being in the military, I like the uniformity of it and I figured I would like being on the police force," Marsala said.
The rest is history. The G.I. Bill helped pay for Marsala to go through the Gloucester County Police Academy and got a promise of hire from Matawan Borough Police Department a month after he graduated.
Marsala also earned his masters in emergency management in 2005 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. While there, he met his now wife Michelle, who is now a U.S. Marshall.
And even though Marsala will say that he is just doing his job, he enjoys the thrill of improving the community.
"It's a rush when you get a good thing going on. Whether you're helping someone or on a car chase or catching a really bad guy to get a real criminal off the street, it feels good," Marsala said.