George Mason University

News at Mason

He ensures firefighters work from positions of strength

April 10, 2019   /   by Damian Cristodero

Hunter Hautz's training manual for firefighter candidates in Prince William County was so valuable, the Mason master's student received a letter of commendation from the fire chief. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

It would have been so easy for Hunter Hautz to become a firefighter. The job is in his family’s blood, with several uncles working as firefighters and paramedics in Newport News and Williamsburg, Virginia.

But Hautz said he knew in high school that he wanted to work as a strength and conditioning professional. It is coincidence that, as a master’s student at George Mason University, he works for the Prince William County fire department.

“The firefighting community is near and dear to me,” Hautz said. “So when this opportunity came up, it just fit really well.”

Hautz, who earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Mason last year, will graduate in May with an MS in exercise, fitness and health promotion. He works several days a week with candidates entering Prince William County’s Public Safety Training Center to help them handle the physical demands of fire school and being a firefighter.

The strength and conditioning manual he developed for the candidates was praised in a letter to Hautz from then-Prince William fire chief Kevin McGee.

“As a result of all your efforts, Prince William County has become the leader in firefighter health and wellness and will serve as a model program for fire departments across the country,” McGee wrote.

Hautz, from Yorktown, Virginia, is a graduate research assistant with Mason’s College of Education and Human Development and is directed by assistant professor Joel Martin. His supervisor with the firefighters, athletic trainer Jodi McConnell, is also a Mason adjunct professor. She said Hautz is a reminder of the resources Mason can put into a community.

Mason’s Sports Medicine Assessment Research and Testing (SMART) Laboratory has long positioned graduate students as certified athletic trainers in Prince William County middle schools, and with county firefighters and police. But when the firefighters contacted Martin and Shane Caswell, codirector of the SMART lab, about decreasing injuries among its candidates, Hautz joined McConnell.

Hautz, who said he came to Mason because of the required internships in the kinesiology program, offers strength-training instruction that correlates to situations firefighters encounter on the job.

“Their gear is roughly 60 pounds that they will wear in a fire, and if they are moving patients or things like that, extra strength will be required,” said Hautz, who emphasizes strength-building exercises such as squats and dead lifts using perfect technique. “My goal is to get them as strong as we can so they can handle the loads that will be placed upon them when they get to fire school and go out in the field where they will be saving people’s lives.”

“We’re out there in the community,” Martin said. “We’re making a positive impact on a lot of people’s lives with the work that we’re doing.”

Not to mention that it keeps Hautz in the family business.

“The biggest impact I can make with firefighters is helping them to save lives,” Hautz said. “I can affect them more that way than becoming one myself.”