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Two women set to become first female Guam firefighters in 20 years

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It's been two decades since the last female firefighter was employed with the Guam Fire Department. Fast forward to the latest cycle, where two women have stepped up to the challenge and are nearing the final stretch.

For Ordot/Chalan Pago resident Jocelyn Sablan, being a part of the Guam Fire Department's 21st Fire Cycle has been fulfilling. "I had previously been a firefighter in the CNMI for about ten years with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, and I moved to Guam," she recalled. "When I left that field, I always felt this void."   

It has been five years since the last cycle and 20 years since there was a female firefighter within GFD. Sablan said getting the call that she had been selected was a shock and an honor and jumped at the opportunity. The same can be said for 31-year-old Barrigada Heights Arlene Sibetang who said she was inspired by her mother, who has been a nurse for over 24 years.

"That's all I grew up knowing. As far as giving back to the community, if my mom does it, I'll do it and take it a step further and find something more challenging. And I found the fire department," Sibetang said.

While their reasons in wanting to become a firefighter may differ, they both share face the same challenges in a male-dominant field. "Every day is a challenge. That's a lot of studying, a lot of cramming, a lot of new things for me to learn - just with the help of all the other recruits, we've all been working together," she explained.

"Coming into it at 33 years old, and I just had a baby recently; physically I felt I wasn't where I should have been. The first few weeks of the academy was really trying," she said.

But it has been the constant support of loved ones that has seen them through even the toughest of moments over the course of the academy. Sablan said, "Some days are a little bit harder than others so I always have that ability to kind of lean on them and turn to them and say, this is something that is coming up and I need to be studying for this, they have been a big help to me. They've been very supportive. Very encouraging. They believe in me, and that I can finish it and get through it and become a firefighter."

Both say that just because they're women, they aren't treated any different. They say the fire cycle is a tight knit group and it's been all encouragement and no disrespect. "It is a fulfilling career. It is very rewarding," Sablan added. "The things that they train you on and the ability to go out to the community, the persona you fill...people automatically trust firefighters. When you're sick or you need help, that's who you call. And I think it's important that more women become involved in that because our community is very diverse. There are a lot more responses where it would be more beneficial if a woman was on the ambulance or women on the fire trucks.

She added, "I know that GFD really welcomes that. They have been great to myself and Arlene. It has been an amazing experience so far."

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