As General Manager for Roco Rescue, Alex’s primary role can be described as that of a visionary, where he collaborates with owner and President Kay Goodwyn to develop the company’s vision – and perhaps also as an air traffic controller, where he works to ensure that other company leadership receives the support and resources needed to put that vision into action.
During his six years with the Air Force, Alex served as a Pararescueman (PJ), where he took courses with Roco Rescue. In was in these courses, that he discovered a passion for teaching technical rescue. He worked part time with Roco’s Tactical Mobile Training Unit until he later received a full-time job offer. He has been with Roco full-time since 2010.
Alex splits his time outside the office between Maine and Florida, where he enjoys being outdoors with his wife and two young sons.
"Yes, this is for me."
This is how Alex Reckendorf responded when a friend pointed him toward technical rescue as a career – a calling that he has found deeply fulfilling since 2002.
From an early age, Alex was service-minded. He enlisted in the United States Air Force immediately after finishing high school, and his six years of active duty included multiple deployments with the Pararescuemen (PJs). Alex notes that many still picture PJs performing traditional rescues by “hopping off a helicopter and picking someone up,” but that simple mission profile has become a highly skilled discipline, leading him to a long career in tactical rescue instruction.
Alex was first introduced to Roco Rescue in 2006 when he attended a training class in Montana – a three-day tactical course on deep mineshaft rescue – to hone his skills as a PJ. Just over one year later, he enrolled in Roco Rescue’s two-week tactical course, which he describes as “bread and butter” skills training for Pararescuemen: confined space rescue, high angle training, rope access, urban climbing, structural collapse rescue, and vehicle extrication.
Upon returning from his last deployment with the PJs, Alex got out of the Air Force and charted a path towards becoming a firefighter. He changed his plans, however, when a phone call to a former instructor and mentor at Roco Rescue turned into a job offer.
A Passion for Training and Teaching
Throughout his career with Roco Rescue, Alex’s role has evolved. He started as an assistant tactical instructor and until recently still occasionally served as a lead instructor for Roco’s various tactical training programs, including confined space training, structural collapse rescue, rope rescue training, climbing, high-angle/mountain rescue training, and other forms of technical rescue. Throughout the years, his work has entailed setting up highline traverse systems over gorges, rappelling down sky-high cargo containers on vessels, and guiding students through exercises in World War II warships to practice confined space rescue tactics. He particularly loves working with experienced Pararescuemen, in part because, “…we learn, too. They have excellent questions…Then we get into problem-solving, and that’s where I have the most fun.”
In recent years, Alex has spent most of his time on a variety of managerial duties. He handled proposals and pricing, managed large government contracts, and was deeply involved in both the finance and human resources functions of the company. While most of these are considered back-office activities, Alex knows from his days as a PJ that success often depends on the planning and administrative work that happens behind the scenes almost as much as the efforts of those on the front lines.
And as his managerial responsibilities have grown, Alex’s love for teaching rescue has grown to include other ways that Roco serves rescuers…and those they protect. “Whether we’re training a rescue team or providing one of our own standby teams for a client facility, our commitment to emergency responders at all levels ultimately, including our own rescuers, makes sure that people return safely to their families each night. From the welder at a plant to the infantryman in the Middle East, Roco exists to bring them home safe.”
Rescue as Prevention
Alex summarizes Roco Rescue’s mission in one word: Safety. “We do that through the education of the rescuers,” he says. “Keeping them safe, and helping them keep the people they’re looking after safe.”
When asked what differentiates Roco Rescue from other technical rescue companies he says, simply, “our people.”
“We’ve got some really unique, experienced people. All of that gets distilled into our training.” While there are other technical rescue companies, Alex believes people continue to come to Roco Rescue because “we are better at keeping people safe. We don’t just fill a square. We make rescuers better at what they do.”
Speaking specifically about Roco Rescue’s Contracted Safety and Rescue Teams (CSRT), Alex says, “We really don’t do many rescues, and that’s the point -- because we work to prevent them.”
And it’s no secret that Roco Rescue does this extremely well. In his experience teaching tactical training courses, Reckendorf has witnessed incredible success stories. When a PJ team that was training on the U.S.S. Alabama happened to witness a ship worker fall and injure himself, the Roco Rescue students were able to lower the man from the ship’s platform and call for medical help. You can read about that rescue here. And when Roco Rescue-trained PJs deployed to Haiti after the devastating earthquakes a few years ago, a responding FEMA team wrote letters lauding their skill and dedication.
Alex’s Vision for Roco Rescue
Alex anticipates tremendous growth for Roco Rescue’s industrial rescue programs in the coming years, particularly given the continued focus on assembling strong teams for contracted safety/rescue work, as well as mobile training teams. Providing the highest caliber training for military and municipal teams across the country will also remain an area of focus. “We’re constantly updating our course content,” he says, “tweaking our equipment kits and modifying our techniques to be safer and more efficient.”
Alex also hopes to call greater attention to Roco Rescue’s refresher courses. “We get great reviews,” he says, but he emphasizes how important it is for course alumni to return every few years to refresh their training and refine their rescue skills. This is particularly important in a culture where many people don’t understand that rescue skills are perishable – they are “use it or lose it” skills that need to be reviewed and practiced. Alex stresses that this is not a matter of checking a compliance box, but rather, it is about prevention, safety, and ultimately, preserving lives.
More Than a Job
Alex resides in both sunny Florida and snowy Maine, where he enjoys spending time with his wife and two young sons. Beyond that, he deeply enjoys his work with Roco Rescue.
“This is not just a job, for any of us. It’s a whole lot more than that,” he says. “I think our clients know this. We care, from the owner right down to the individual instructor and rescuer.”
Alex recognizes that what it comes down to is, simply, “we are the people we serve.” Many Roco Rescue instructors and rescue crew members are still active firefighters, PJs, or other military reservists, and so they know well and understand the importance of what they are doing. This makes the work they do close to home, relatable, tangible, and critical.
Because of this, Alex says, their work “is, and always will be, near and dear to our hearts.”
Thursday, May 2, 2019