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Power Of Bonds, Positive Mind Sets
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Olivia Bithell
April 25, 2023

The bonds between firefighters are extremely close ... close enough to be considered family.

For the father-daughter duo, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Blaine Holland, 633d Civil Engineering Squadron deputy fire chief, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and Airman 1st Class Riley Holland, 60th Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter, at Travis Air Force Base, California ... it is family.

March 21, 2023 - U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Riley Holland, 60th Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter carries her father, Senior Master Sgt. Blaine Holland, 633d Civil Engineering Squadron deputy fire chief in front of an Oshkosh P-19 Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting vehicle at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. According to the father-daughter duo, the most rewarding part of being a firefighter is being able to help someone on potentially the worst day of their life and make a positive impact in the community. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Olivia Bithell.)
March 21, 2023 - U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Riley Holland, 60th Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter carries her father, Senior Master Sgt. Blaine Holland, 633d Civil Engineering Squadron deputy fire chief in front of an Oshkosh P-19 Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting vehicle at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. According to the father-daughter duo, the most rewarding part of being a firefighter is being able to help someone on potentially the worst day of their life and make a positive impact in the community. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Olivia Bithell.)

Blaine joined the Air Force in January 1998, shortly after graduating high school -- inspired by a close friend who enlisted, and his grandfather who served from 1947 to 1950.

“There were three reasons I thought fire…I like to be in shape, I like a little bit of danger and, most importantly, I like to help people,” said Blaine. “The Air Force took me in and offered me the opportunity and training to become a firefighter.”

For Blaine, not only the fire house, but the whole of the Air Force, has embraced him as family along with his wife of 23 years and four children, throughout his career. Throughout all the different challenges firefighters face in fire suppression and rescue, constant job trainings, long hours, deployments, moves and everyday life, his family was always taken care of.

Growing up in a military household creates a unique bond amongst family members, united through the Air Force lifestyle and ‘service before self’ being ingrained in everyday life, according to Blaine.

“Riley grew up in the fire station and is an Air Force brat all the way through,” said Blaine. “The Air Force’s values have been instilled in her and made her comfortable around this environment.”

For Riley, the bonds she shares with her family, comfort ability with Air Force life, and her desire to work in a team-centric career field motivated her to join the Air Force.

“My mom, dad and oldest brother, Ashton, (42d Contracting Squadron contract specialist at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama) inspired me to join,” said Riley. “After my brother returned home from Basic Military Training, he was glowing and so excited, and I remember thinking that I wanted to do that too.”

Her father helped her narrow down specific career fields centered around her hobbies, but most importantly being a part of a team. According to Riley, he did not sugar coat the challenges and dangers that comes with fighting fire.

“I did not have firefighting as my desired job right away, but after talking to my dad and learning about the challenges of the job…I thought, I got this,” said Riley. “Fire had everything I wanted…the team environment, physical action, camaraderie and helping people in the community. I get a good feeling when I’m able to help somebody on their worst day and just be there for them.”

According to Riley, having her dad in her back pocket as a resource is invaluable. Not only can she get advice in her everyday life, relationships and events, she can get advice about work from someone who wears three hats: a firefighter, an Airman and a father.

“It is so nice having an outside resource who’s been through exactly what you’re going through,” said Riley. “I can talk to him about anything, vent, talk about things at work and he understands. Anytime my friends and I ask him for advice, he’s always there.”

Helping develop young Airmen is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job, stated Blaine.

“I see awesome Americans here, and I can also see what they're struggling with. I've gone through it, or I've seen someone else go through it because the uniqueness of a firehouse since we live together,” said Blaine. “All I care about in the end is that person. Whatever they’re going through, I’ll stand next to them and go through it too, because somebody did it for me, and I’ll do it for you.”

Riley shared that her dad’s advice has helped her and her friends develop healthy ways to maintain work-life balance, and take care of themselves physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Through that advice, they have been able to have a positive mindset and find fulfillment in their Air Force careers.

“My dad always has remained true to himself. The military is a part of him, but not all he is. He is so positive and excited to go to work,” said Riley. “He inspires me to be better and have that same positive attitude in work, my faith, with people and everything in life.”

Riley, in turn, also inspires Blaine.

“Riley is a constant reminder to me about what inspires me inside and outside of work,” shared Blaine. “She reminds me to continue my passions, such as playing my guitar and writing songs, and why I love being an Airman.”

The bonds between Airmen are special. Being a firefighter strengthens those bonds. Having her dad as her mentor is even more special, stated Riley. He has shown me you never have to change who you are to complete the job.

“If you’re interested in fire and have been told no, I would say don’t ever take no as an option. Be true to yourself and go for it,” said Riley. “As a woman, you’re going to be held to the same standard and going to perform the same job as a man would. You do not have to give up your femininity or your desire to become a firefighter if that is your goal. If you remain positive and true to yourself, you can accomplish any goal you have.”

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