News>Practice helps save lives for deployed fire department
SOUTHWEST ASIA - U.S. Air Force firefighters from the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department Station 1 respond to a structure fire scenario during an exercise Oct. 29, 2012. The 380th ECES fire department trains constantly to ensure all firefighters are proficient and meeting mandated requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Amanda Savannah)
SOUTHWEST ASIA - U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Grim and Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Price, 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department Station 1 firefighters, operations check a rescue saw Oct. 29, 2012. The 380th ECES fire department trains constantly to ensure all firefighters are proficient and meeting mandated requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Amanda Savannah)
SOUTHWEST ASIA - U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Joshua Hodge, Senior Airman Peter Kurimai and Airman 1st Class Ethan Powell, 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department Station 2 firefighters, train on a high-pressure breathing air compressor Oct. 29, 2012. The 380th ECES fire department trains constantly to ensure all firefighters are proficient and meeting mandated requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Amanda Savannah)
by Tech. Sgt. Amanda Savannah
380th Air Expeditionary Wing
10/31/2012 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- The once-empty parking lot near a small, non-descript trailer is soon a bustle of activity as firefighters arrive and begin advancing to the building with in protective suits and pulling hoses.
A group of four stops at the door while one runs the back of his hand across the door and yells, "Checking for heat!" before he opens it.
The door opens and smoke billows out as the four enter the trailer to rescue any "victims" and put out the "fire" - which isn't really there.
The 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department trains constantly to ensure all firefighters are proficient and meeting mandated requirements.
"If we don't have our heads in the game, we can't support the mission," said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Czmyr, fire chief. "Everything we do revolves around the mission assigned to the aircraft we have.
"If I don't have a firefighter who can properly wear his or her gear, to get in and pull a hose, effect a rescue, and put out a fire, I as a fire chief have failed the person who is affected ... and have also failed the firefighter by not having them certified and trained at the level they need to be. Without training, we might as well not even be here."
As the fire department's primary mission is life safety, their presence here is paramount.
"When we have to go do our job, we are the 'life insurance policy' of the Air Force," said Staff Sgt. Michael Sinitsky, a Station 1 vehicle crew chief. "Everybody counts on us to be there day in and day out."
In addition to saving lives, the fire department is also responsible for conserving Air Force property including aircraft and structures through preventative means, such as fire safety inspections, and by stabilizing emergency response situations.
Though firefighters here are new and from various home stations, their training ensures they are at the same level and can meet the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing mission.
"We train to the same levels no matter what base we're at," said Tech. Sgt. Geoffrey Harvey, a Station 2 battalion chief. "My job is to make sure all of my crew is on the same page. We practice how we play.
"Our job is very serious, and if we don't know what we're doing, then somebody's life could be in danger."
This training includes first aid first responder training, hazardous material training, vehicle extrication training and more.
Master Sgt. Matthew Perreira, assistant fire chief, said they also must train on operations specific to the various air frames here, as many firefighters are only familiar with fighting fires on a small number of air frames.
"Each individual aircraft has its own specific hazard," said Perreira, an Ewa Beach, Hawaii, native deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. "You wouldn't treat a fighter aircraft like we would a large-frame cargo-type aircraft as far as fighting a fire."
For example, Perreira said the fire department's crash vehicles, which hold 3,000 gallons of water and have two turrets, would shoot their turrets on a fighter aircraft while rescue firefighters would extract anyone on board, and then "surround and drown" the aircraft. However, with a large-frame aircraft, the fire is usually from cargo inside, and in addition to passenger rescue, they must also treat the aircraft like a structure fire.
"It's a huge difference," Perreira said.
Sinitsky said he's enjoying the new opportunities he has as a firefighter here.
"It's nice to get out and get different perspectives from other people and learn about the different aircraft, because some of the aircraft we have here at the 380th aren't what we have back at home station," said Sinitsky, an Orwigburg, Pa., native deployed from Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J. "It's a good experience."
Airmen new to the career field also must work on upgrade training while they are here.
"We're working really hard in getting those younger Airmen the licenses and upgrade training they need," said Czmyr, who is a reservist deployed from Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. "That's important for their career progression, and it keeps them engaged in the duties of what we do here."
Amn Sydney Santiago, a Station 2 firefighter, is in the midst of her career development courses and is enjoying her first deployment.
"Everything is going good so far," said Santiago, a Watertown, Conn., native deployed from Holloman AFB, N.M. "My coworkers are the same as back home; they help me with things because I'm still doing CDCs.
"We have exercises where we go to calls and get all set up and do what we would do in a real situation. When we train, it's fun. It's not as much pressure as a real-life situation."
Harvey said he's pleased with the results he's seen during training so far.
"We had an exercise (recently) and I got to see them for the first time," he said. "They did really well. They were ready, they're prepared. I've got a really good crew."
"We are gelling quite well," he said. "I have a great management staff with a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge. What I've seen as far as the drills that we have, we have a solid corps of firefighters. I'm really excited about this deployment."