Tech. Sgt. Jessica Packard: Woman of Character, Courage and Commitment
By Senior Airman Dillon Davis, 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 31, 2014
ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Tech. Sgt. Jessica Packard helps paint the portrait of the model female firefighter with how she has committed her life to selflessly helping others in her dangerous profession.
"I joined the Air Force in 2000 and have been serving for over 13 years," said Packard who is the fire station captain for the 97th Civil Engineer Squadron. "I came into the Air Force as a firefighter and just finished up a tour as an instructor at Goodfellow Air Force Base at the fire academy there."
Packard's role as a leader allowed her to further her influence in the Air Force and keep doing what she loves doing.
"It was a great experience and I really enjoyed working with new Airmen who were right out of basic military training," said Packard. "It's a good feeling knowing that you have a big impact on those Airmen's careers and the Air Force."
Before the Air Force, Packard knew growing up that she wanted to be a firefighter and was committed to making it happen.
"In high school, I used to work at a local air show every year," said Packard. "The last year that I went to the air show, there was a plane that tried to take off and ended up stalling out and crashing nearby. My friends and I were the first ones to make it over to the scene and as we were getting closer, the fire had already engulfed the plane and pilots. The fire department that was on standby that day, took six minutes to respond to that accident, which is absolutely horrendous. That's when I knew that I was going to become a firefighter."
Once Packard decided she wanted to become a firefighter, she stopped at nothing to achieve her goal and has used her "can-do" attitude to excel as a female firefighter here at the 97th.
"In high school, I actually took a firefighting class that was offered, and that's when I fell in love with the career," said Packard. "I like helping others. That's my biggest motivation. Whether it's medical calls or teach future firefighters."
Nobody can make it through life on their own and Packard has found mentors and role models along the way to help her find success.
"My volleyball coach was a really big motivator growing up," said Packard. "She liked to see her players succeed. Not just on the court, but in life as well. She helped me learn to take on more than one aspect on my life at a time and she was always there for me as a role model."
As with any career, there are challenges and obstacles that present themselves and Packard has found ways to overcome them.
"The biggest challenge for me as a woman firefighter has been trying to hold my own in a male-dominated career field," said Packard. "I helped overcome that stigma by winning World's Fastest Female Firefighter during the Firefighter Combat Challenge 2010. Nobody questioned my physical abilities from that point forward."
"While being a female in a male dominant career field has its many struggles, it has been rewarding," said Packard. "I feel as though I am honoring the family of the man who burned alive at the airshow I worked at in high school but was unable to save by pulling him from the wreckage, with every success story I contribute to. That incident is what helps motivate me every day on the job and reminds me of why I do what I do. My successes in life are reflected in the people I've helped in one way or another. I dedicate my life, literally, to helping others."
From her experience, Packard offered a few words of advice to help motivate and inspire others to achieve their dreams.
"My advice to others would be to always be flexible," said Packard. "You have to be able to adapt to the hand you're dealt. Don't always accept no for an answer. I think you need to have a strong resolve to make it as a woman in a typically male dominated career field. Be fearless and always go for your goals until you are satisfied."
"In being good at my job, it led me to other opportunities, such as being the spokesperson for the fire academy recruiting video," said Packard. "I was used in studies on women's fire protection bunker gear. I've even been used in a case study for women in the military filling male dominant career fields."
Packard explained the importance of maintaining character, courage and commitment in everything you do.
"I'm trusted with maintaining the kind of character that the public has to trust when it comes to treating patients and maintaining their confidentiality," said Packard. "I have the courage to do the job. And I am committed to it as it is the only job I ever truly wanted or could see myself doing. However, it's not the job that defines me. It's what I do for those around me that makes me successful."