By NADINE FISHER
FOR 20 years William Henry (better known as Mo) Sullivan has been on call as a member of the Tweed Rescue Squad.
In that time he has been involved in countless rescues, searches and accident callouts.
And today Mo Sullivan, Tweed Rescue Squad supply officer, will be honoured at the Tweed Shire Australia Day ceremony when he is named as the Tweed Shire Volunteer of the Year for 2006.
Speaking with the Daily News yesterday, Mr Sullivan said he was humbled and honoured to be selected for the award.
"It certainly wasn't expected - there are a lot of other volunteers out there doing a terrific job," he said.
"I got the volunteer job with the rescue squad after retiring as a naval merchant seaman. A neighbour and squad captain was looking for an equipment officer, and the rest is history."
Mr Sullivan, who turns 77 next month, was born in the Tweed and spent his early years on the family farm at Piggabeen. After finishing school, Mr Sullivan signed up with work the marine section of the RAAF before moving into the reserve and then the merchant navy and after 40 years service he retired.
Mr Sullivan has lived in Pottsville for the last 25 years and is known by the larger community for his voluntary work. With his trademark pipe never far away, Mr Sullivan said the biggest change he has noted during his 20 years service has been the drastic reduction in accidents on the Burringbar Range since the construction of the Chinderah to Yelgun Motorway.
"Before that motorway we could have up to four callouts a night to accidents on the range in wet weather," he said. "Now there are very few."
Mr Sullivan said the work of the rescue squad, who rely heavily on grants and donations, was not something that everyone was cut out for, but it was a vital service that helped the community when in need.
"To become a member we put people on a six-month probationary period to see whether or not they can handle it - we see a lot of unpleasant things and it's fair enough, far from everybody is suited to the job," he said.
"It is hard to deal with the tragedies, you tend to put them away in a nook in the back of your mind, and just hope you don't have to see more."
In 2005, the Tweed Rescue Squad had 123 callouts, assisted 53 people, rescued 37 and had six people die.
The Tweed Rescue Squad is currently seeking members. Enquiries phone Mo Sullivan on (02) 6676 1457 or Mal Pearse (02) 6674 2112. Donations to: PO Box 1172, Kingscliff.