Watching out for his Hometown: A Firefighter's Story

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicholas Larsen
  • 47th Civil Engineering Squadron

Every town needs someone to watch out for it but not every town is lucky enough to have their own superhero. Laughlin Air Force Base, a small military base in a sleepy border town in southwest Texas, has the next best thing: Raul Castorena.

The 47th Civil Engineering Squadron assistant fire chief and Del Rio, Texas native has been up to the task since his childhood days at Laughlin.

“I grew up in Del Rio and went to elementary and high school here,” recalled Castorena. “My first job at the air force base was as a lifeguard back in 1988, so I guess I had a penchant for rescuing.”

After several months of working at the base pool, Castorena realized his appetite for protecting those around him could not be met as a lifeguard. Instead, he decided to branch out and join the Marine Corps.

“All my family is military,” explained Castorena. “My Grandfather, my father … I wanted to follow in their footsteps.”

Thousands of miles away from that sun-kissed Texas pool, Raul couldn’t stop himself from getting his feet wet and saving people.

“On a Navy ship, I did rescue missions in the Marine Corps,” said Casterna. “In Yugoslavia, I went down and rescued some Italian pilots that went down. I was getting shot at and that's when they gave me my citation (award).”

After fulfilling his four-year commitment to the Marine Corps, Castorena found himself on the island of Guam with little direction. He briefly took up a job as a delivery man before he found his next calling or, more accurately, it found him.

“I was delivering a package to the HR office and it said, ‘firefighters wanted, no experience needed, military background’,” said Castorena. “So I filled it (an application) out while waiting to deliver the package, and the next day I received a call that they were offering me the job.”

Fate had delivered Raul a chance to become a firefighter and he seized the opportunity. He fought fires in Guam for three years but eventually grew tired of the island life and asked to be reassigned to his hometown.

“I wanted to be close to family,” reminisced Castorena. “I wanted to return to the states where I was from, and that's when I requested a transfer to Laughlin.”

Nowadays at Laughlin, Raul has earned the distinction of being named assistant fire chief. He finds himself passing on his decades of life-saving knowledge and experience to the next generation of firefighters.

“He stays on top of us to get our health and safety stuff done.” remarked Thomas Whitman, 47th Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter, “He keeps us up to date and is super friendly and is a good leader and a guide.”

“He’s a good leader,” Miguel Chacon, 47th Civil Engineering Squadron lead firefighter said. “He enforces all the rules and he cares for everybody. He’s just a caring guy.”

By finding his calling, Raul Castorena has led many Airmen in saving lives and helping grow the various fire departments he has joined over the years.

“The part I love most about being a firefighter is you’re always out there and helping people out. I enjoy that,” said the assistant fire chief. “I’ve always enjoyed that since I’ve started doing the job, it gives you pleasure.”

So, Laughlin may not have a superhero, but the base does have Raul Castorena watching over. And that’s not too shabby.