A Smokejumper’s Testimony
“I met Eddie on a dirt trail just outside the housing compound of a fire crew I’d just been hired by. It was our first morning and it was my first day working for the US Forest Service. In addition, it was my first day on a Type 1 Interagency Hotshot Crew. Eddie was yelling at me to keep up, keep going and finish our PT run. I was vomiting at the two mile mark. I was weak, tired and a pathetic example of what the public expects a Hotshot firefighter to be.
After I finished vomiting that first morning, I began to walk. I thought about turning around but Eddie wouldn’t let me. In fact, he wouldn’t let me walk. He hounded me, told me to “pick it up”. The next thing I knew, I was running again. This time, dry heaving, as I put one foot in front of the other I didn’t stop. I finished. What I didn’t know, was that this was the first of many difficult days.
Eddie became my mentor that first year. He pushed me to improve, work hard and have fun. He taught me to remain calm in the face of danger and take care of my friends and coworkers. He was my saw partner, squad leader and big brother. Over the years, he has always kept track of me and always expected big things.
Edward Aguilar instilled in me, a sense of confidence and fortitude that has stayed with me throughout my career. He taught me that no matter how bad I felt, I could still put one foot in front of the other. I could still finish. I could never give up. Today, I am a proud husband and father with a wonderful wife and two fantastic kids. I finished a Bachelor’s degree with a double minor. I am also an Assistant Air Operations Foreman with the McCall Smokejumpers, a highly qualified fire manager and a fixed-wing pilot for the National Infrared Operations program. I’ve made over two hundred jumps under a round canopy and logged over twelve hundred hours of flight time. Six hundred of those flight hours were at night, over smoky, mountainous terrain with fire below. I have had the opportunity to train Hotshots, Smokejumpers and new pilots. I have had all of these opportunities because Eddie told me to ‘pick it up‘.”