News: Airman’s future burns bright
Story by Senior Airman Alexxis Mercer
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. - Can you handle the heat? While it might sound rhetorical, it isn’t a question she considered much before raising her right hand and not only swearing allegiance to the Air Force, but also to protect people, property and the environment from disasters. While she always knew the military would be her future career path, fire protection wasn’t the job she initially had in mind.
“I went to the Military Entrance Processing Station thinking I wanted to be a security forces troop,” said Staff Sgt. Estrella Martinez, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron fire protection. “I ended up qualifying for my current job and never looked back.”
As a firefighter and first responder, Martinez contributes to prevention and rescue, and responds to aircraft emergencies, flightline and structural fires, as well as hazardous material incidents that require tremendous skill.
This fast-paced career, which lives depend upon, isn’t something Martinez shies away from but embraces fully and takes on with a cool demeanor each day.
“I love helping people; I volunteered to protect and serve, and that’s what I get to do each day,” Martinez stated. “I love being part of the emergency response core. Just the other day, our team responded to an airman that nearly lost a finger; the calls we get are always unpredictable, but we are trusted to provide support at a moment’s notice.”
The NCO describes herself as accident prone – a quality that doesn’t necessarily fit the mold in a career field that is geared toward prevention.
“It’s almost an on-going joke here in the fire department,” she said. “I’m that person that trips and falls routinely. I’ve broken several bones and I’m constantly getting cut, scraped and bruised. But I will say that when it comes to my job, I leave no room for error.”
An exemplary Air Commando, Martinez was recently recognized by her peers during her Airman Leadership School graduation ceremony at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., May 2. She was presented with the John L. Levitow Traveling Trophy, the most distinguished honor an ALS graduate can receive from instructors.
“It meant a lot to me that my classmates thought so highly of me,” Martinez said. “I don’t see myself in any special way; to have others hold me to a higher standard was very encouraging and uplifting.”
On a day-to-day basis, Martinez has duties ranging from vehicle maintenance to varying medical responses. While fulfilling emergency response capabilities, she provides aid to ambulance crews, and can provide first aid and maintain support of personnel during transport to medical facilities.
The physical demands of her job require rigorous fitness standards. She and her fellow firefighters train daily to stay in peak condition in order to support mission needs when necessary.
Cannon firefighters provide 24/7 support for the installation, often sacrificing time and holidays away from family and loved ones to continuously maintain safety for members of the 27th Special Operations Wing.
“If you’ve never been in an emergency and needed help, it’s hard for me to describe our role to you,” Martinez added. “We are strangers until we arrive on scene to help people deal with adverse situations. It’s those moments when I am caring for people in need that make my job extremely rewarding.”