AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – Serving in a career field that once was closed to women is a source of pride for a firefighter assigned to the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron here.
"If something happens and you're in a fire, it doesn't matter who's next to you, as long as you can trust they can get you out," Air Force Airman 1st Class Emily Beckerjeck said.
As a firefighter, Beckerjeck responds to aircraft, airfield and structural fires, hazardous material incidents, search and rescue missions and the many everyday tasks required of any male firefighter, including carrying gear that can weigh up to 75 pounds.
Beckerjeck said her motivation to become a firefighter stemmed from the idea of proving that women can do whatever men can do. "There's no limit anymore," she said.
Since the job is physically demanding, Beckerjeck and her fellow airmen must train every day to build up their strength and ensure they are able to carry out the mission. Firefighters here work 24-hour shifts and often are required to spend holidays and special occasions away from their families.
Though she misses her family in the United States, Beckerjeck said, the firefighters here have taken her under their wing.
"It's not a brotherhood anymore, since I'm in it," she said. "Now it's a family."
Beckerjeck and her firefighting family frequently welcome children into the fire station for tours and demonstrations. She also recently visited a school in Roveredo, Italy, to educate children about her job as a firefighter and to share her story as a woman serving in the military.
"I love being an inspiration to little kids, especially little girls," she said. "It's so awesome when they say, 'I want to be just like you when I grow up.'"