Burning with passion

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Madison Collier
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

When children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, their answers may range from astronaut to ballerina. Most of the time, these dreams are forgotten.

For Justin Nava attending Junior Firefighter Camp at Goodfellow Air Force Base set him on a path that would turn a childhood goal into a lifelong career. 

“Just seeing what they do every day fueled my passion to join the fire service and encouraged me to pursue my dream,” said Nava. “I looked up to them and thought what they were doing was really cool, and I wanted to grow up and be one of them.”

The Junior Firefighter Camp holds activities for children ages 10-12, so when the time came that Nava could no longer attend he coordinated with Jason Garcia, then assistant fire chief of prevention, and Billy Clemons, then fire inspector, to explore new opportunities to keep him involved with the program. 

In the years following, Nava helped with the hands-on activities  Junior Firefighter Camp provides and traveled with the fire station for Fire Prevention Week dressed as Sparky the Fire Dog and Blaze, the station’s mascot. 

“I watched him grow up after he attended fire camp, we couldn’t get him to leave,” said Bill Provencal, 17th Civil Engineer Squadron fire station captain. “He was always here when he had the time. ”

It was the relationships he built through volunteering that became the foundation of support through the three years of training he endured to acquire all the necessary certifications he needed to move forward in his career. However, during this time, Nava would not expect to end up back at the fire station that started it all. 

Nava was offered a spot in the program by a chief who worked at the fire station at the time. This position was part of a pilot program meant to combat the high turnover rate the fire station was facing. Initially, it was intended to have a civilian go through the training offered at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy, however, it evolved into a program that required  Nava to enter with all training required by the state of Texas as well as a degree. 

“I had to come in with all of my certifications already completed. I did a lot of training and spent thousands of dollars to achieve everything myself,” said Nava. “So when I came in the door it put me a leg up.”

This process took three years. Fortunately, during this time Nava was attending required courses for his certifications and earning his associate's degree. 

With the schedule the job provides, employees have extra time to pursue personal endeavors or professional development.

“I’m currently going to school for my bachelor's in fire and emergency services administration,” said Nava. “So even though I don’t get to run 20 to 25 calls during the day I have the downtime at night to further my education and that's very important to me.”

In the short time Nava has worked at the station he recalls being sworn in as his fondest experience so far, a moment of feeling like his hard work and patience had finally paid off. 

“Standing in front of a flag and taking the oath there's no better feeling. It’s just something you've worked for and worked towards for so long in your life, whenever you officially become a firefighter there’s no better feeling, it’s awesome,” said Nava. 

Moving forward Nava wants to reach for becoming Assistant Fire Chief of Operations, a position that combines both operational and administrative duties. Nava shows no lack of drive, passion, or dedication required to move through his chain of command to reach his goals. A trait he has exhibited through his teenage years and into his adult life. The achievements he has earned are nothing to him without the support he is provided by his family. 

“I’d like to thank my parents, my girlfriend, and the people I’ve met over the years for helping me and keeping me on track,” said Nava. “There's no better feeling than when you're getting sworn in and you know there's a handful of people proud of you. I could not thank them enough for helping me get to where I’m at.”