Not Your Average Calendar Girl

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Emily Rautenberg
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

If you open up the 2017 Fire Department of New York calendar this year, you may be surprised to see the strong figure of Staff Sgt. Vanessa Schoening of the 514th Civil Engineering Squadron looking back at you.

The Fire Department of New York annual calendar has traditionally featured shirtless male firefighters with six pack abs. Last year was the first time the calendar featured a female firefighter. This year, the department took it a step further by creating a reversible calendar, with one side featuring the men of the department, and the other featuring the women.

These women are not your average calendar girls. They were photographed wearing their gear, carrying heavy equipment likes hoses and axes, and showing off their guns, conveying a very powerful message: women are strong firefighters, too.

Schoening, who posed for the month of March, which also happens to be Women’s History Month, stated that the calendar shoot was an awesome experience and very humbling. She said she feels honored to have posed for Women’s History Month as women’s rights have come a long way and continue to do so to this very day.

When asked how it felt to be a part of that history, Schoening responded, “History! Big word! Well, like I said earlier, I am very honored. Many women before me have paved the way just for me to even get an opportunity to do what I do now. Even if it’s just posing for a calendar, it means a lot.”

Schoening was approached by the head FDNY Public Affairs representative to participate in the photoshoot.

“I laughed about it,” she recalled. “The next thing you know, I was posing for it.”

Schoening had not had any professional modeling experience, though she was also featured with three other women on New York Magazine after graduating from the fire academy. The photos also demonstrated these women’s strength, showing off their bunker gear and equipment.

This is also the first time the calendar features the FDNY emergency medical technicians and paramedics, which is where Schoening got her start. Her senior year of high school, Schoening received the opportunity to go to a vocational training center to learn a trade. The school offered to teach her to become an EMT for FDNY.

“I didn’t like blood, but I did it anyway,” Schoening remarked. “It was a great choice, too, by the way.”

Schoening grew up in Queens, New York, and joined FDNY as an EMT in 2006. Soon after, she joined the military. She has been in the Air Force approximately seven years, and works as a Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning/Refrigeration Craftsman here. In 2014, she became a firefighter.

“I always wanted to join the Air Force, since I was a teenager,” she said. “I knew no matter what, I was going to join the military.”

The most rewarding moments of her job as an airman, she said, are being able to serve her country, as well as doing HVAC, which is primarily a male-dominated career field. Similarly in her role as a firefighter, Schoening said she loves serving the community and inspiring women, especially young girls.

“I always felt that I needed to provide things to myself and not to anyone else,” she said. “I always felt that I needed to stay humble no matter what situation I am in.”

Schoening’s main goal is to be a role model for the next generation and her one and a half year old son. She knows that being a female firefighter isn’t necessarily “the norm,” but wants to change that.

“I’m always stopped by men and women who are happy to see a female firefighter,” Schoening said. “Or they’re in shock to see one because they always tell me I am the first female firefighter they have seen,” she added.

Schoening wants young girls to know they can become firefighters.

“Don’t be afraid to try,” Schoening said. “The worst thing is not trying and later regretting or questioning, ‘what if?’”