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NEWS | May 3, 2024

Balancing life as an ICU nurse and Army Reserve firefighter

By Pfc. Alexcia Rupert 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

"ICU/ER nurses get called thrill-seekers, so it is kind of funny because both of my jobs parallel that way," said Spc. Annalia Smith, a firefighter assigned to the 467th Engineer Detachment Firefighting. "They are both adrenaline-driven."

After hearing from friends about the positive experiences the Army offers and the personal growth it fosters, she decided to join the Army Reserve in 2018. She went to the recruiting office when she finished her bachelor's program, where they offered her a job as a firefighter, which she immediately took.

Smith is at Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base (MKAB) on a nine-month rotational deployment. Being part of the fire suppression unit for both MKAB and Novo Selo Training Area in Bulgaria is a big responsibility and allows Smith to interact with service members from various nations. "It has been so fun to learn about different cultures and honestly we all at least have one thing in common; being in the military," she said.

As a female firefighter in a male-dominated field, Smith is no stranger to breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes. Whether participating in competitions or handling emergencies, she repeatedly proves that gender is no obstacle to excellence.

"Firefighting does not matter whether I am a female or not," she said. "If my partner goes down, then I will get them out. We are all trained the same."

In 2020, she took a leap and pursued nursing school. Luckily, she had friends who gave her insight into the job.

"I love how both jobs complement each other well,” she said. “I love the medical side, and a good number of calls for the fire department are medical."

Transitioning seamlessly between her roles as an ICU nurse and a firefighter, Smith thrives on the challenges and intricacies of each profession.

"I like how both jobs require me to use my hands in different ways," she explains. "As an ICU nurse, I perform a lot of fine motor movements, whereas as a firefighter, I am engaged in physically demanding tasks like throwing ladders and cutting holes in buildings."

Smith said she loves being an ICU nurse because it requires balancing big-picture thinking and attention to detail. In the ICU, she manages critical patients and administers life-sustaining medications while constantly assessing for subtle changes. She appreciates the body's ability to adapt and the puzzle-like nature of their work. Similarly, firefighting demands strategic planning to tackle fires effectively and minimize damage. Both roles involve quick decision-making and the ability to adapt under pressure.

"I enjoy the Reserve because when I want a break from being a nurse, I can sometimes kind of dip in and out of it," she admits. "Although it can be hard juggling both, there are times I feel like one gets more attention and the other is forgotten."

One of her favorite memories of being in the Army Reserve was after a long day of being in the field, her unit returned to their battalion's rest area, only to be caught in a sudden downpour. They decided to sleep in the back of a Humvee with friends, leading to a night of trading stories and catching up.

Despite being smaller than her colleagues as a firefighter, she says, "I love it because I always get the job done; it just may not be pretty."

Through it all, Smith's dedication to getting the job done, no matter the circumstances, is a testament to her character and unwavering commitment to excellence. Smith embodies the spirit of dedication, resilience, and adaptability as she navigates the dual roles of an ICU nurse and Army Reserve firefighter.