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COMMUNITY CONNECTION: Lt. Dominic Aquila II

Staff Photo: Josh Green 

Staff Photo: Josh Green 

Dominic Aquila II, 36 and a native Floridian, was basically born in a wet suit. The Fire Department lieutenant is a natural fit on Gwinnett's amphibious Swift Water Rescue Team, braving the icy Chattahoochee waters that hover at 48 degrees year-round. The son of a Panamanian preacher and Mississippi mother, Aquila bides his time playing soccer with his three boys, with a body of water usually a stone's throw away.

On Chattahoochee hazards: One second you're playing around on the rocks, the next second, the rocks aren't there anymore. (People) get in that 48-degree water, and they lose their mind.

On the other football: We're some soccer fiends. We love soccer. I played a little bit, growing up in Miami. I got to (Covenant College, near Chattanooga) and had to choose between that and the fire station on campus. They paid part of your room and board if you were a firefighter. I kind of got bit by the bug there.

On commitment: I commuted from the Georgia side of Chattanooga, back and forth to Gwinnett for two and a half years, while my wife finished up (business) school. It was a lot — 128 miles one way. That was back when gas was 79 cents a gallon.

On hydropower: That water has a mind of its own ... it's relentless, but it's predictable. Sometimes people don't realize the power of water. It may only be moving 4 mph. A freight train might be moving 4 mph — but you can't hold it back. People get up in that freight train, and it's on.

On a Miami upbringing: There's all kinds of smaller keys people don't know about. Some of them were used by the Navy as target practice back in World War II, so there's all these huge, 40-foot-deep holes full of fish. Spearfishing, lobstering — it was fun.

On home life: I've got three boys, (ages) 12, 10, and 8, and they're crazy as all get out. My wife, bless her heart, has to put up with me ... and we've got two male dogs, too: A miniature schnauzer and a dachshund named Cesar. My two days off are spent trying to chase him around the neighborhood. He's got a few girlfriends.

On preparedness: We're trained to expect the unexpected because the victim can do anything. When they're drowning and they see you, all they see is an island. They're going to do everything in their power to get on top of your head.

— As told to staff writer

Josh Green