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31 May 2024


Albert “Al” Balderama is passionate about two things: firefighting and teaching others how to prevent fires. The battalion chief for Commander, Navy Region Hawaii’s (CNRH) Federal Fire (FedFire) department, has been a firefighter for 43 years and takes pride in being a mentor for generations of future firefighters.
Balderama began his career with the Air Force as a firefighter and retired as an Air Force Master Sergeant after 23 years. Following active duty service, he was offered a job as a 911 dispatcher on Hickam Air Force Base. But he could not stay away from firefighting. . He soon returned to what he loved most – being a firefighter. Balderama returned to firefighting with CNRH FedFire, where he was eventually promoted to his current role as a battalion chief.

“I have always wanted to be a firefighter since I was a little kid,” Balderama said. “I remember a time when my mother was roasting a turkey for dinner and it caught on fire. She tried to save the turkey from burning by throwing a wet towel over it but that only ignited the fire every time she opened the oven. So that was what inspired me to become a firefighter, I wanted to save lives…while my mom wanted to save the turkey.”

Growing up as the eldest child of three children in a Filipino household, Balderama was seen as a role model for his younger siblings, who addressed him as “Manong,” meaning older brother.

“Being raised by strict Filipino parents, it was instilled in us that you have to be good citizens and family,” explained Balderama. “Family first is what I believe in … My workplace is my second family.”

Similar to being an older brother for his real family, he was also the “Manong” for his brothers and sisters in the fire department. He was a role model for younger firefighter recruits, Airmen, and other commands whom he trained over the years.

“Back when I was in the Air Force, I’m proud I was able to be the training chief for up and coming Airmen, and firefighters when I was once a technical sergeant,” said Balderama. “It’s my passion to help and teach others about fire prevention and make them aware of what to do in terms of fire safety, whether you are a firefighter or not.”

Balderama encourages new and future firefighters to take advantage of volunteer opportunities and above all, to treat others equally no matter what their background is.

“Just like the saying goes with Karma, ‘what comes around, goes around.’ Taking any opportunity you can to volunteer and help the community will work out in your favor no matter what culture you’re from,” said Balderama. “Honoring the month of Asian Pacific Islanders means a lot because we're so vast, there’s many different cultures out there. And it's a time to honor their own culture.”

“As a firefighter working with people from different backgrounds and treating everybody equally is one of the things I’m used to 24/7. You get to learn about everybody else's culture and respect their heritage, especially living here in Hawaii, we're so diverse culturally and in the department.”

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