Back in 2000, Corey Birkel found his perfect job in an unlikely way: Someone suggested he become a line mechanic. He liked the sound of it and thought he’d give it a try. Birkel was fresh from the Marine Corps at the time and ready to buckle down, but he was unsure of his next moves. He was fortunate to find a job that offered variety—solving new problems in different ways. Sometimes, this job brings him to the right place at someone else’s very wrong time.
Birkel has also been a volunteer firefighter for more than 20 years—first in Sherrill, Iowa, and then in Farley, where he has been since 2001. His commitment to the fire department started because an uncle had suggested it to him and put it in terms that made it easy—“What if your mom and dad’s house was on fire?” He’d be the one to go help, Birkel knew immediately.
As a Marine, Birkel had been an ambulance driver in a medical unit, and he credits that training for his quick thinking at a fire or crash scene so he can safely provide the most appropriate aid. That’s especially helpful when his work and volunteer efforts intersect.
Birkel recalls a particular time when the traffic he was stuck in turned out to be caused by a motorcycle crash that the fire department hadn’t been able to reach yet. He stepped in, instructing bystanders to reroute traffic to prevent a chain reaction, and assessed the situation so he could immediately inform his fellow firefighters when they arrived.
“For a rural resident, help can be 10-15 minutes away,” Birkel said. “Our line people can often be there before the firefighters can, and we help out more often than you’d think. One of our guys used his bucket truck to help someone out of a burning house. We’re there, anyway, and can make a difference.”
Birkel retired from the fire department this year, but not from service. He coaches his daughters’ softball teams, serves on the city council, and helps out wherever help is needed — for Boy Scouts, American Legion, and other organizations. It’s practically in his DNA, he said. When he was young, Birkel and his brother often helped their parents maintain trails, cut down trees, and care for Camp Albrecht Acres, which provides services for people with special needs.
In meeting new people, “understanding the world a bit better,” and especially in seeing his teams grow, Birkel feels like he gets as much back as he puts in. “The best thing about coaching is seeing the kids get better, said Birkel. When you see the work they put in and how the develop their skills—it really feels good.”
Corey’s volunteer efforts and commitment to his community demonstrate how he uses his energy for good and have earned him a 2022 VIP Award from Alliant Energy.
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Photo caption: Corey Birkel gives of his time to help his community wherever his energy is needed. That’s why he’s earned a 2022 Alliant Energy VIP Award.
Corey Birkel finds himself in the right place, in and outside of work
Published on September 19, 2022