WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
To some, raising their right hand and enlisting in the armed forces is the ultimate act of voluntary selflessness.
For one Senior Airman assigned to the 509th Operations Support Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base, enlisting in the Air Force wasn’t enough, she wanted to go the extra mile.
Senior Airman Lillian Johnson, an aircrew flight equipment technician, spends her time outside of work training as a volunteer firefighter with the Johnson County Volunteer Fire Department in Knob Noster.
“When I got orders to Whiteman Air Force Base, I knew I was going to join the fire department,” said Johnson. “I immediately got on the internet and found the Johnson County Volunteer Fire Department and filled out an application.”
Johnson’s calling to serve her community started early in her life. As the daughter of a firefighter, she always knew she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps.
“My dad joined the fire department when he was 16, and now he’s 56,” said Johnson. “My first steps were in a fire house, so it’s been in my blood since I was born. I always wanted to join a fire department but I didn’t want to join my dad’s department. I didn’t want to seem like I was riding his coat-tails. So I joined here to make it my own.”
Johnson is currently going through recruit training, which lasts six months and teaches basic firefighter skills. With strict training requirements and duty schedules, Johnson puts a large amount of time and effort into volunteering. To her, the extra work is worth it.
“I signed up to help people,” Johnson said. “That’s the same with all the guys I work with. We’re here for people when they need us.”
Johnson shares her passion for protecting people with a firehouse filled with other Whiteman Airmen. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bird, a 509th Maintenance Group maintenance instructor and JCVFD firefighter, described his first impression of Johnson and her passion when she first joined the department.
“The first time I met Airman Johnson, we actually went out on her first call,” said Bird. “She was very eager to learn and to get her feet wet. She’s carried that attitude all the way through, she still has that eagerness to learn.”
The perspective Johnson gains from her volunteer work also helps her Air Force career in aircrew flight equipment.
“Firefighters can’t do our job without our gear, whether it be bunker gear or packs, our gear is there to protect us,” said Johnson. “Without the gear we are responsible to maintain at the aircrew flight equipment shop, pilots won’t be able to do their jobs safely either.”
Johnson works to follow her calling and provide as much help as she can to her community.
“I grew up around people that were willing to offer help, and willing to put others before themselves,” Johnson said. “I’d like to think that’s the kind of personality I have.”