Bilingual Airman helps serve her Spanish-speaking community

  • Published
  • By Crystal Farris
  • Idaho Army National Guard

BOISE, Idaho – Senior Airman Mayra Fomin was born in Mexico and moved to the United States at 4 years old. First living in California and then Nampa, Idaho, her parents raised her to speak Spanish and English.

After joining the Idaho Air National Guard at age 27 in 2017, Fomin was surprised to have the opportunity three years later to put her Spanish to good use while responding to COVID-19 and serving her community of more than 80,000 Spanish-speaking Idahoans.

“I’ve only been in the National Guard for three years now and I never thought I would use my Spanish in this way,” said Fomin. “It has made me feel so happy to hear the comfort in their voices because they’re able to communicate with someone in their language.”

In December, Fomin was one of several hundred Idaho Guardsmen who volunteered to mobilize to district health centers, hospitals, health care facilities and medical centers across the state after Gov. Brad Little activated the Idaho National Guard as COVID-19 cases increased.

Fomin said when she arrived at Southwest District Health in Caldwell, staff there were excited to hear she spoke Spanish. As the only Spanish-speaking service member there she was assigned to help investigate and monitor positive COVID-19 cases and translate information to the Spanish-speaking community.

“I’m Hispanic and I know for a fact that it’s very difficult for people in my community to understand what’s going on and get the right information out there,” said Fomin. “When the opportunity to volunteer came about, I thought it would be very rewarding to be able to communicate to not only the English-speaking individuals but the Spanish community as well.”

Fomin first joined the Guard looking for a way to serve her community as a traditional Airman. She later took a job as a full-time technician for the command support staff of the 124th Force Support Squadron.

“I thought I wouldn’t be able to volunteer for the mission because I’m a full-time employee,” said Fomin. “I was so excited when my commander gave me the opportunity because it enabled me to go out there and help Idaho however I could.”

It was a rewarding experience to be able to answer questions and concerns from Idahoans who were unable to communicate with them otherwise, especially while consoling members of the community that felt isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

Having gotten COVID-19 herself, Fomin said she was all too familiar with the feeling of isolation. Although she had to quarantine from her husband and three children, she said it enabled her to speak from experience while comforting and reassuring individuals who also tested positive.

“Having COVID helped me personally relate to the community and it gave me the opportunity to reassure individuals that their symptoms and health would improve,” she said.