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Saving lives and building bombs

Senior Airman James Boehm is a Reservist serving with the 924th Maintenance Squadron and works as a conventional maintenance technician. In other words, he builds bombs for a living.

Senior Airman James Boehm, 924th Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance technician, poses for a photo in the Ak-Chin Indian Community fire station in the Santa Cruz Valley of Southern Arizona, July 27, 2019. Boehm, a civilian fire fighter, is fulfilling his childhood dream of joining the military by becoming a bomb builder in the Air Force Reserve. (U.S. Air Force photo/TSgt Courtney Richardson)

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. --

Many people make bucket lists full of experiences they wish to accomplish in their lives and many times life takes over and that list is put on hold. One Airman decided to take his by the reins and fulfill his dreams.

Senior Airman James Boehm is a Reservist serving with the 924th Maintenance Squadron and works as a conventional maintenance technician. In other words, he builds bombs for a living.

“Out of all of the jobs that were offered this one was more my speed because it’s more hands-on,” Boehm said. “I’m still in training so I’ve been learning about all the different shops within the [career field] but my favorite section has been the rocket and bomb builds.”

Since he was a child, Boehm has always wanted to join the military because he has had so many positive examples.

“I come from a military family,” he said, “My parents are retired Marine Corps, I have two uncles one Navy and one Army, both retired, my brother is in the Army, and my sister is in the Air Force.”

However, as much as he wanted to join the military, Boehm didn’t make that commitment right away.

“When I got out of high school, I went a different route and headed to college,” he said. “During that time there was an opportunity for me to become a fire fighter and I took it.”

It was an easy decision for Boehm to make since his family isn’t just a military one but a fire fighting one as well.

“I have two sisters who are fire fighters with me, my uncle was a fire chief, my aunt was an assistant chief, and I have another aunt who was a captain,” Boehm said. “Being a fire fighter was something that I really couldn’t pass up and it’s what I’ve been doing for the last nine years.”

Boehm works at the Ak-Chin Indian Community fire station, which he does with gratitude.

“My civilian job is exciting especially since it’s the same community I grew up in,” he said. “My mom was a working single mom raising four kids and we did have our struggles. When it got hard there were a lot of people in my community that stepped in and helped us out. Now it’s my turn to give back doing something I love.”

One day Boehm noticed that one of his dreams was about to slip through his fingers.

“I realized that I was getting up in age and told myself that if I wanted to join the military, I needed to pull the trigger, so I did,” he said.

Boehm’s life experience was a plus for his leadership.

“When he came to us as an older adult, we noticed he was very mature, established in his civilian career and took his personal fitness seriously,” said Master Sgt. James Pumerajo, 924th MXS munitions flight chief. “We knew he was going to be one of our low maintenance Airmen.”

Boehm knows that his jobs are on two different sides of the spectrum and so do others.

“People ask me about balance all the time,” he said. “They point out that once a month I build bombs with the intent of killing people but every other day of the week I’m saving lives. My answer to them is I’m serving my community and I’m serving my country.”

His dedication to both careers doesn’t go unseen.

“Balancing two [careers] is challenging for every traditional Reservist but especially when you’re working 24-hour shifts and completing the ancillary training requirements that fire fighters have,” Pumarejo said. “For him to join the military shows us that he truly wants to serve his country, not because he has to, but because he wants to.”

Pumarejo values having Boehm on his team because he is a good influence on everyone.

“He’s already shown he is a great role model for other Airmen by keeping up with his upgrade training, ensuring his PT is at the highest standard, and jumping in and learning everything he can while he’s here for his drill weekend and during annual tour,” Pumarejo said.

While both jobs are strenuous and stressful Boehm says that they really aren’t that different.

“In both jobs you have to pay attention to details and be aware of what you are doing at all time; lives are on the line,” he said. “It may sound weird but slow is fast and we have to rely on the person next to us to make it out alive and to save others. For both jobs I’m forced to be more responsible and self-aware.”

Boehm appreciates his ability to fulfill two things on his bucket list.

“I am very thankful for the Reserve and having the ability to maintain two family traditions that I have wanted to do since I was little,” Boehm said. “My leadership and co-workers in the military support me in my civilian job and my fire fighter co-workers support me in my military job, especially since a lot of them are also serving as guard and reserve members.”

Boehm’s civilian job will always be an asset to his military career.

“He’s fit right in as a valued member of the ammo family,” Pumarejo said. “He’s always the one designated to fight the fire in every explosive operation. There’s nothing better than a pro when lives are on the line!”