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News > Feature - Above and beyond the call of duty
Above and beyond the call of duty

Posted 1/30/2013   Updated 1/30/2013 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Daniel E. Liddicoet
49th Wing Public Affairs

1/30/2013 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Airmen of the United States Air Force live and work by a common set of values engrained from the earliest stages of training. For some Airmen, the creed of Excellence, Integrity, and Service Before Self is exemplified not only through the steadfast performance of duties, but also through their actions when not in uniform. Chief Master Sgt. Ralph Goodwater, 44th Fighter Group, Detachment 1 instructor sensor operator, demonstrates his commitment to service through his off-duty work as a volunteer firefighter.

Goodwater balances his responsibilities as a firefighter alongside a full-time Air Force career that has spanned almost 30 years.

After enlisting in the Army in 1981, Goodwater joined the Air Force Reserves four years later to work as a flight medic at Norton AFB, Calif. Following 15 years as a medic, Goodwater then cross-trained into operations intel at March AFB, Calif.

"I was an Intelligence Analyst when they started the reserve sensor operator program," said Goodwater. "After being deployed in Bosnia with Remotely Piloted Aircraft, it piqued my interest, I inquired about it, and I became just the third sensor operator in the reserves."

Working with RPAs gave Goodwater a new sense of purpose.

"Being a sensor operator gets me in the fight," he said, "it gives me a direct impact on the battlefield."

Flying as a sensor operator on the MQ-9 Reaper for six years gave Goodwater the operational experience to come to Holloman AFB and become an instructor.

Throughout Goodwater's career, he strived to commit himself to service and the impact he could have on others. After coming to Holloman AFB, there was no better way for Goodwater to do that than by becoming a volunteer firefighter.

"I'd never been a firefighter before," he said, "but when I moved here two years ago, I wanted to give back to the community. At the time the High Rolls Fire Department needed some help. I didn't grow up wanting to be a firefighter, but I was drawn to it because it seemed different and challenging. The bottom line for me was being able to help people."

Becoming a volunteer firefighter required Goodwater to learn an entirely new set of skills.

"Most of my training took place over the course of a year," said Goodwater, "and was done either on weekends or during the evening; it entailed ladders, hoses, Jaws of Life and other specialized equipment. My training qualified me to be an entry -level firefighter."

"At the beginning of my training, even though I wasn't qualified to do much, I could still jump in the fire truck and go help. If I could do nothing else other than direct traffic, at least that's helping. Throughout the course of the year, I was able to gradually learn more and contribute more as well."

Motivated by his drive to help people, Goodwater was eventually assigned to manage a fire station near his home in High Rolls, N.M. As a station manager, Goodwater remains prepared to respond to emergencies at any time after work.

"I carry a pager and a hand-held two-way radio with me," he said, "and when the pager goes off for any reason I'll drive from my house to the station, get into my fire gear, pick up the fire truck, and then respond."

Far from viewing his responsibilities as a burden, Goodwater finds a unique satisfaction through his service.

"When I arrive on a scene, even though my pulse is racing and I'm unsure of what I could see, at least I know I'm helping somebody. I experienced this sensation a long time ago as a medic, when somebody is hurt and they can't take care of themselves, and you're there to help them, that's not work, that's a joy. Even if it's nothing more than being able to hold their hand while somebody else is working on them, it's making somebody feel better for that moment, and that's something you have to experience to understand."

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