Firefighter of the Week: Paul (P.J.) Cristler, Jr.

By Martin Couch

Paul Cristler, Jr. (or P.J. to everyone), grew up near Arlington, Texas and got interested in firefighting when he joined the United States Navy and was stationed at its Great Lakes Recruit Training Command for boot camp back in 1993.

"I joined the Navy out of high school and became a Damage Controlman, which is the equivalent of a firefighter in the military," Cristler said. "It was something I never considered doing until I got into the Navy. When I went to boot camp, I was undesignated and once I got into the fleet I got my job."

Cristler went to RTC Great Lakes for initial training for eight weeks to find a job he liked in the Navy.[more]

"One of those eight weeks is firefighting training and that's where I caught the bug," he said. "It was really fun."

After graduation from RTC, Cristler's first command was on a minesweeper out of south Texas and, later, after going to A-school to become a Damage Controlman, he was put on a destroyer out of Florida. Two years ago, Cristler came to Bryant to be a firefighter.

"I moved from Texas to work at the Pine Bluff Arsenal in Domestic Preparedness Homeland Security that was funded through grants, but when the grants ran out, I took another job doing the same thing of all places at Louisiana State University (in Baton Rouge, La.)," he said. "I was on the road 40 to 42 weeks a year and when my wife and I had a child, I decided it was time to find something permanent."

That's how Cristler got to Bryant.

"I love it — it's the best job," he said. "I work with a bunch of good guys who all love what we do. If you want to help other people, this is the place to do it."

Cristler plans on retiring here in Bryant.

"I appreciate the steady employment and my schedule allows me spend time with my family,” he said. “I really like Bryant."

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