The idea of a first responder retreat came from another first responder and came to fruition with assistance from Rick Ward, with Benchmark Mortgage, who helped put a team of dedicated first responders together from all walks of life to breathe life into creating this annual retreat. We were able to create this team to provide a resource and were able to help other first responders in their path to healing.
Rick Ward is a branch manager for Benchmark Mortgage out of Colorado Springs, CO with licensing in place to serve in all 50 states. Rick and his company like to use their mortgage platform to say thank you to the men and women who have serve as First Responders or the U.S. military. When others say no, Rick and Benchmark Mortgage often say yes. As a result of his passion to serve those who have served, Rick continuously ranks nationally in the top 1% of all mortgage loan officers. Giving back to those who sacrifice so much is always the right thing to do and helped to spur the push to create Code 3 Retreat with a great group of first responders. Rick is the son of a Washington, D.C. police officer. Rick also served 8 years on active duty in the U.S. Army with most of that service time overseas. Rick is married with two adult children. Rick is excited to see the first of many Code 3 Retreats come together to allow our First Responders to gather with like minded comrades from all over the country.
Dr. Navega has nearly three decades of clinical experience with individuals who have experienced acute stress, secondary trauma and post-traumatic stress injuries. She is an EMDR trained therapist. She completed her Master of Social Work from Boston University and her PhD from Barry University’s School of Social Work. Her dissertation is titled The Impact of Organizational Stressors: A Grounded Theory Approach to Exploring Stress Injuries in Police Workers’ Compensation Evaluations. While teaching research at a college in Boston, she and her colleague, conducted a study in 2016 on stress and coping in helping professionals (police, fire, EMS, acute care medical and mental health professionals). They published a peer-reviewed journal article in Best Practices in Mental Health titled, Pivotal Events: I’m Not a Normal Person Anymore. Understanding the Impact of Stress among Helping Professionals (Howard & Navega, 2018). She is currently employed full-time by Lee County Public Safety and spends most of her time focusing on trauma exposure in EMTs and Paramedics. She helped initiate and serves as the Clinical Lead for Lee County Public Safety’s Peer Support Team. Nicole is also embedded inside Fort Myers Fire Department and Fort Myers Police Department part-time. She has consulted with Islamorada Fire Rescue. She volunteers to serve as one of five Mental Health Professionals on the Southwest Florida Critical Incident Stress Management Team. Dr. Navega is also the daughter of a police officer.
Jennifer Browne is a Realtor with REMAX Real Estate Group in Colorado Springs and has been for 10 years now. She is a retired police officer with the City of Colorado Springs where she served for 7 years before having to medically retire due to an injury. During her time on CSPD, Jennifer spent her time working on patrol and in Narcotics. Her husband is also retired from CSPD and he spent his time on patrol, SWAT and as a K-9 Handler. Jennifer is very passionate about helping her first responder community and continues to involve herself and support organizations that help out First Responders in their area and is excited to be able to do this retreat and help First Responders all over the country.
Pete started in 1995 serving the citizens of Southwest Florida as a police officer. He has held numerous positions as a police officer, but being a K-9 handler was by far his favorite. Prior to becoming a police officer, he served 6 ½ years as an Aeroscout Observer in the United States Army. Pete is a dedicated husband with two adult children, one of which is also a police officer in Florida. Pete is dedicated to helping first responders and veterans, and is excited to participate with the Code-3 Retreat.
Melissa Radke is a Colorado native, born and raised in Colorado Springs. She started her career in EMS in 2005 at 21 when she was thrown to the wolves on an ambulance with zero medical background working previously as a server at Red Robin. Melissa road that wild ride as an EMT-B for the next ten years full-time for AMR in Colorado Springs/El Paso County until she had her first child and went part-time. Melissa was part-time for the next five years. She got her real estate license in 2017, began falling off on her EMT continuing education, and fell in love with real estate; Melissa is now a full-time Realtor. It wasn't a big transition. She is always driving around like she's responding code 3, dealing with various interesting personalities, going into random strangers' homes, knowing many personal things about a person quickly, and holding their hand through a stressful life-changing event. Melissa has a passion for helping first responders, and although she may have moved on, her love continues, and she is dedicated to our mission. Melissa have seen many of my friends struggle with the stress of being a first responder, past and present. She is devoted to offering a fun, relaxing place to decompress for those who dedicate their lives to helping others before themselves.
William “BJ” Hall has been in public safety for over 35 years. As a lifelong Florida resident, he began his service in public safety in the fire service as a volunteer firefighter in St. Johns County, Florida. In 1986, BJ joined the Florida Army National Guard where he served as a Full-time military police officer from 1988-1990.
In 1990, BJ made the decision to take a full time with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. In his service with the sheriff’s office as a Deputy/K9 Handler, BJ was one of the founding members of apprehension K9 program with K9 Hoss. After nine years as a K9 Handler BJ took a leave of absence from the sheriff’s office to attend EMT and Paramedic courses.
After becoming a paramedic and returning to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office as a part-time Deputy, he was assigned to the SWAT team as a Tactical Paramedic. He was a Senior team member and Tactical Medic Team Leader, Basic SWAT Instructor, Rappel Master, and Electronics Specialist for the team. He was also a Firearms Instructor, Driving Instructor, and member of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Dive team, EOD Team, Marine unit, and Aviation Unit. BJ is currently assigned to Beach Patrol unit and is also the Director of the Florida SWAT Association Tactical Medic Program.
In 2000 BJ started his career with the City of Jacksonville Fire and Rescue as a Firefighter/Paramedic. While serving as a full-time Firefighter/Paramedic with the City of Jacksonville, he is currently an Engineer/Paramedic assigned to the Rescue Division assigned to Station 61. He is also a member of Task Force 5/Urban Search and Rescue and additional specialties include being a BLS Instructor, ACLS Instructor, NAEMT TCCC, TECC Instructor, and T.E.M.S. Instructor.
Greta Hall is a Public Information Officer (PIO) for St. Johns County Fire Rescue (SJCFR) in St. Johns County, Florida. She began her career with SJCFR in August 2011 as a Community Program Coordinator to build community outreach programs. During that time, she worked as the American Heart Association Training Center Coordinator/Faculty Member over seeing five training sites and over 200 AHA BLS and ACLS Instructors.
In March of 2012, she worked alongside the St. Johns School District to develop and begin a "Hands Only CPR and AED" aimed at graduating seniors. From March 2012 through February 2020, over 40,000+ graduating seniors received this life-saving training. During this time the American Heart Association- First Coast office utilized the curriculum developed for the St. Johns County Program and expanded it to the neighboring counties by asking Greta to teach the training program to other area teachers.
In 2018, Greta partnered with the Northeast Florida Healthcare Coalition, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, and the St. Johns County School District to bring Stop the Bleed training to all St. Johns County employees and assigned school district employees. This program not only included the training and the placement of Stop the Bleed Kits with every AED in the school district and the SJCFR Public Access AED program.
Appointed to the Public Information Officer in 2020, she is tasked with keeping the community, as well as the media, up to date with the fire departments safety messages, activities, and incidents. Greta is the point of contact for responding to media inquiries, including gathering information and conducting broadcast interviews. She also develops content and manages all department social media platforms; oversees, and produces all department still photography and video production.
Greta also responds as part of the Incident Management Team and is a member of the Florida Fire Chief's PIO Deployment Team and has deployed to the hardest areas of Bay County after Hurricane Michael and most recently the Town of Fort Myers Beach, Florida after Hurricane Ian.