AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
Airman 1st Class Kaleb Rubera has been a trained firefighter for less than a year, only since July 2020, but his learning curve was shortened considerably when he deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in January.
“The only experience I had was being on my Guard base, so this is all new to me,” he said. “I get amazing learning opportunities every single day. But at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can teach when you’re on a call. I think the most challenging part is that fire is public, so everything you do – if you mess something up – the consequence is that you have made someone’s bad day worse on top of everyone seeing you while you’re on that call.”
Rubera is assigned to District 1 on Al Udeid AB, which covers every structure in the Coalition Compound and the Blatchford/Preston Complex, including facilities every deployed service member, firefighters included, use for living, dining and exercising.
“It's kind of priceless honestly, the idea that it's people serving people instead of people serving the Air Force, or maybe people serving planes,” he said. “I'm here for the people. That's my job. And it feels nice.”
Rubera is looking forward to his deployment and learning all he can from the firefighters he works with. He finds each day in fire to be a new experience, from learning to operate different equipment to understanding the various components that make up the firehouse, like administrative positions.
“It’s a very evolution-based career field,” he recognized. “I truly appreciate my job. I truly appreciate this opportunity, even though I feel like I stumbled into every opportunity I've had. I knew nothing about the military.”
Rubera said his first real experience with understanding what it meant to be in the military was during gas mask training in basic training. He found the experience to be very unpleasant. He was hyperventilating, overheated and struggled to breathe.
“After we finally took it off, I was like ‘I'm never going to have to do this again, which is great,’” he recollected. “And then someone asked, ‘When else do you use a mask?’ And the first thing the instructor said was, ‘Oh, the fire department uses it every single call.’”
He had many other lessons in what it meant to be a firefighter from there. Going beyond firefighting into medical and hazardous material response helped him understand the breadth of the career field he joined.
“They had two mottos that really stuck with me in training: ‘Train like someone's life depends on it, because it does,’ and ‘We are the heroes for the heroes,’” he said. “Those are the two things I kind of stand on.”