FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
The alarms ring, flooding the building with a sense of urgency. The captain of the St. Maries fire department rushes to the scene of an emergency, this time followed by a new volunteer firefighter, his 16-year-old daughter Layla Rice.
“I’ve always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” said Senior Airman Layla Rice, 92nd Civil Engineering Squadron Firefighter.
Three years later Rice decided to continue honing her firefighting skills when she enlisted in the United States Air Force as a firefighter.
“When you join the Air Force, you’re introduced so many new cultures,” said Rice. “I feel like the military has made me a better person.”
Shortly after enlisting, Rice deployed to Al Udeid for Operation Allies Refuge (OAR) where she helped change the lives of Afghanistan refugees by ensuring that they received medical attention, food, water, shelter, and transportation to safety. “Many of the refugees we were helping had never had a health checkup before,” said Rice. “We had people complain of shoulder pain and we would find a bullet wound.”
While deployed, Rice had to deal with a variety of emergencies that she had not encountered before and an almost non-stop work schedule with numerous calls requiring her and her team to provide critical care.
“We had over 700 calls in two weeks,” said Rice. “I almost delivered a baby in a bathroom before one of the doctors arrived and was able to take over. ”
It wasn’t just the job that Rice had to adapt to. The entire environment, people, way of life had been something that she had not anticipated.
“This mission was a giant learning experience,” said Rice. “The language barriers, the culture differences, and the medical issues are something I’ve never dealt with before.”
Eventually Rice’s OAR deployment at Al Udeid came to an end and she returned back to the states. It took some time to adjust back to life before deployment because she went from constantly working 12 hour shifts to being able to have free time Rice explained. After returning she was recognized for her work in OAR with an achievement medal from Col. Chesley Dycus, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Commander.
Currently Rice is looking to further her education on the medical side of what she may encounter on the job.
“I’ve always been a part of fire, but I also am in love with the medical side,” said Rice. “I want to start going to school and learn more about the respiratory side.”
Rice continues to impact Fairchild as a high preforming member of this team, and the only active-duty female firefighter on station.
Being able to make split second decisions, deliver lifesaving medical care and having the passion to carry out any mission are all some attributions of what makes a great firefighter.
Fairchild’s fire department ensures the safety and well-being of the base, its airmen and their families.