AAFB’s female firefighters fueled by passion for service

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Miyah Gray
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

When some people think of firefighters, they see strong fearless men, but two women at the 97th Civil Engineer Squadron break that mold.

The driving force behind two female firefighters on Altus Air Force Base is a personal one that breaks gender and career barriers. For them, it’s their hard work that defines who they are in the pursuit of helping those in danger or in need of medical care.

Senior Airman Gabriella Lopez, 97th CES driver operator, says that she joined the Air Force to not only serve her country, but those around her. Prior to taking her oath of enlistment, Lopez was a certified nursing assistant and instantly fell in love with helping others.

“I’m a first generation Mexican-American and both of my parents are very hard workers,” she said. They have a construction company that they built up from nothing. Seeing all the hard work they put into providing a better life for myself and my siblings inspired me to do the same. Initially I wanted a medical job, but I love working in fire. In high school I felt that healthcare was my calling. Being a first responder, I still get to do some medical work so it’s a win-win situation.”

Similar to Lopez, Tech. Sgt. Emily Beckerjeck, 97th CES firehouse red pod station captain, found firefighting in her desire to work hard in the service of others.

“I didn’t always know I wanted to be a firefighter, but I knew I wanted to help people and do something physical. Back when I was in high school, my cousin was in the Air National Guard as a firefighter and one of my friends’ dad is a civilian firefighter who served in the Navy. They both inspired me to join the military and  become a firefighter.”

Lopez credited her work ethic to overcoming any disadvantages she may have working in the firehouse.

“Sometimes I do find the workload challenging,“ said Lopez. “There’s nothing about the job that I can't do, but certain things men do have an advantage in because of their genetics. They have more upper body strength, they have more muscle, there’s obviously going to be some things that we as women have to adjust to.”

Beckerjeck said her accomplishments both as a firefighter and in life come down to her will to succeed more than any other factor.

“I don’t necessarily think of my gender when it comes to my job, I’m just a firefighter,” she said. “I can accomplish and obtain any goals regardless of my gender if I have the determination and motivation to do so.”