Mandy Bradford has come to realize that she always seems to have one foot firmly planted in chaos.
Because of that, the transition from the rugged world of taming and training wild horses to being a rookie reserve firefighter made perfect sense.
Bradford, a Glen Rose High School graduate who lives in the tiny Johnson County community of Bono, recently returned from a one-week Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) firefighter training school in College Station. She was one of 12 Somervell County Fire Department firefighters — with varying degrees of previous certification — who participated in various specialty training classes.
Bradford grew up in Glen Rose but lived in Colorado for 10 years after high school where she learned how to train horses, which developed into an occupation.
“I train mustangs. Doing what I do, training wild horses, is very chaotic,” said Bradford, who lives with husband Danny Bradford and their two boys, ages 8 and 10. “It’s just always been a passion — just always been a part of who I am.”
Her husband served in the Navy for seven years, and now is a shift manager at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant.
When she moved back to the area from Colorado, Bradford worked with the security department at Comanche Peak for five years. After leaving there to go back to horse training, she found she missed the camaraderie of working closely with other people.
Last December at the 2016 SCFD awards banquet, Bradford and local veterinarian Gary Crabtree were co-recipients of the Good Samaritan of the Year Award. They happened to be driving in separate vehicles on U.S. Highway 67 and both stopped to help two champion roping horses that were badly injured when the trailer they were in tipped over in an accident.
Bradford was not a member of the SCFD at that time, but mentioned to Fire Chief Mark Crawford that she was working to become certified as an EMT. After that, she joined the SCFD as a reserve firefighter.
“Mandy is one of our new recruits in this latest class,” Crawford said. “She is a go-getter and has signed up for every training opportunity we have offered.
"Nationwide, It is getting harder and harder these days to get the kind of commitment from a volunteer that it takes to perform safely and effectively as a firefighter/EMS servant. This class will have 29 weeks of emergency medical training before becoming certified by the state to operate in the ambulance."
Crawford said that the TEEX fire school provides intense training “to kick off their goal of gaining their firefighter certification in the first year they are on the department.”
He added, “In the meantime they ‘learn on the job’ in a limited role so that we can protect them from anything too risky which allows them to put all their training they are learning together.”
Bradford had to get tough as a horse trainer, and sustained her share of injuries along the way.
She stands 5'10", and had an athletic background during her school days in basketball, volleyball and track. Bradford said she even played a little college basketball at Cisco College and volleyball at North Texas, but never a full season. Said she had wanted to join the military earlier in life, but never did.
“I just feel that everyone is able to do what they can to serve, somehow,” she said. “So this is my opportunity to serve others.”
Bradford said she has learned that being an EMT is never boring, and feels suited for the job.
“I just feel like every day of my life has prepared me for this,” Bradford said, noting that she has a knack to “stay calm in the moment,” and added, “I’m just made for it — no doubt about that.”
Bradford said she is scheduled to complete her Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) training on Aug. 15, and will begin training for Emergency Care Assistant (ECA) level next. She hopes to earn her EMT certification in October. Her next training session will be swift-water rescue, at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth.
Bradford said her No. 1 goal is to become a certified paramedic. Early next year she hopes to start the first of her four semesters of college work needed to reach that goal.
“That’s what started all this,” she said. “I just had no idea they (firefighters and paramedics) went hand-in-hand. I feel like my whole entire life has prepared me to be a paramedic.”
Bradford is one of many examples of local residents who helped the SCFD earn the 2016 Texas EMS Provider of the Year Award.
“I have been doing this for 30 years and have been exposed to many fire and EMS systems,” Crawford said. “This community has the one of the best trained, experienced and dedicated folks I have ever seen. Our volunteers and paid personnel all grew up here and that means a lot when it comes to the way they care and commit to serving their community.”