“Just coming into the military, it sections off so many people and cuts off so many people out that the people who do come in are ore straight shooters. And the ones who actually go to the fire academy are extremely lucky.”

The future shines bright for this airman now — but Joseph Salazar’s future almost went up in flames after some bad choices.

“Fire...Just getting in trouble because of it,” Salazar said.

Ironically, that trouble ignited the 20-year-old’s passion for this prestigious job.

“It’s something that not a lot of people can do,” Salazar said.

“My dad’s a farmer. My mom used to clean houses,” Paul Mendoca said.

It’s a coveted position in Mendoca’s country. The 34-year-old came all the way from Portugal to receive this top-notch training.

“To be able to be in a job with such high regard and that’s considered so important, for me, it’s the best feeling in the world,” Mendoca said.

What you may not realize is that all firefighter training for the Department of Defense is conducted at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo.

Since the 1990s, the fire academy has trained more than 70,000 firefighters!

“If you don’t stop, you’ll make it,” Salazar said.

The two men realize the incredible opportunity before them.

“I strive to be the best I can be,” Salazar said.

Being the best means learning how to be the ultimate team player, how to be a leader and they know it’s a chance to change their destiny.

“The hardest thing you can do is keep moving forward,” Salazar said.

“You can become anything you want in this world just as long as you put your mind to it,” Mendoca said.

The Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy is one of the toughest and best firefighting schools in the nation

It trains firefighters from all branches.

The intense program lasts anywhere from 13 to 17 weeks.