Matthew Tafoya from Local 1592 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah., has been named AFGE’s Firefighter of the Year.
The award ceremony was held on Jan. 18 at the Salt Lake City Grizzlies hockey game during the second period. The award is usually given out at our union’s annual Legislative Conference, but Tafoya was honored early because he will be on military duty at that time.
Tafoya exemplifies loyalty and putting the people first within the organization. He leads both airmen and civilians with an exceptional knowledge of vehicles and firefighting operations. His leadership and ability to bring people together would make him an asset to any organization and help him stand out in the Fire Department.
In addition to his work at Hill AFB’s Fire and Emergency Services, Tafoya has spent 16 years with the Air Force Reserve 419th Civil Engineering Squadron and has recently moved to the 341st Civil engineering squadron on Malmstrom AFB, MT.
Tafoya has been an AFGE member for over 15 years. He assists his union representative at Local 1592 daily with his actions and compassion for people. When the active steward is not available to counsel fellow AFGE members, Tafoya lends a helpful ear and is able to direct personnel with information and proper knowledge.
Outside of the military and civilian firefighting world, Tafoya assists with veterans in hospice at times of need and organizes tributes to fallen firefighters from the organization.
He has spent the past five years as a board member with the Utah Guns and Hoses Hockey 501c3 charity. This organization pits police and fire departments in a yearly battle on the ice, giving community members a chance to remember officers in the State of Utah Police and Fire Service who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Tafoya also donates hand-made U.S. flags, which are constructed from fire hoses and are auctioned for up to $1,000 each. In conjunction with the Utah Grizzlies Hockey organization, donations of $30,000-$50,000 are distributed to other organizations within the community. Recent funds raised during the annual Guns and Hoses Hockey Classic went to benefit the Mascot Miracles Foundation and University of Utah Health's Burn Camp, a summer program for children who have been injured by fire events, and the Utah 10-33 Foundation which distributes funds immediately to families to alleviate financial pressures associated with the loss of a loved one.
At this point, you think he’s done enough, right? No, Tafoya is also the secretary/board member of the Utah Warriors Ice Hockey Program. This program uses the game of hockey to assist military veterans with disabilities in developing self-confidence, adjusting to their new lifestyle, rehabilitation, self-reliance, concentration, and assist in helping participants back into the mainstream lifestyles they were accustomed to prior to their disability. This will help the individual be more successful both within and outside a hockey environment. Tafoya has participated and assisted for four years with this organization and has recently become a board member to contribute a stronger voice and have a greater impact.
AFGE thanks him for his sacrifices and congratulates him on being the recipient of our union’s 2019 Fire Fighter of the Year.
AFGE’s Firefighter Steering Committee is accepting nominations for the 2020 Firefighter of the Year award until October. You can send nominations to [email protected].