Aviano Air Base, Italy (AFNS) - "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," said Airman 1st Class Emily Beckerjeck, a firefighter with the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron.
A number of women like Beckerjeck are currently serving in non-traditional career fields at Aviano Air Force Base, Italy, contributing to the Air Force mission every day with their hard work and dedication, working side-by-side with men in jobs that, a few decades ago, were not available to women.
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, to include carrying gear that can weigh up to 75 pounds.
Beckerjeck's motivation to become a firefighter stemmed from the idea of women's equality, and proving that girls can do whatever guys can do.
"There's no limit anymore," she said.
Since the job is very physically demanding, she and her fellow Airmen must train every day to build up their strength and ensure they are able to carry out the mission, Beckerjeck said.
Firefighters at Aviano AFB work 24-hour shifts and are often required to spend holidays and special occasions away from their families.
Despite being separated from her family in the states, Beckerjeck said that 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. Beckerjeck also recently visited a school in Roveredo, Italy, to educate children about her job as a firefighter and share her story as a woman serving in the military.
"I love being an inspiration to little kids, especially little girls," Beckerjeck said. "It's so awesome when they say 'I want to be just like you when I grow up.'"
And thanks to women like Beckerjeck, now they can.