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380 ECES firefighters train to fight
An Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting truck sprays water near a KC-10 Extender on the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing’s flightline Dec. 10, 2013. Firefighters sprayed near the aircraft instead of on the actual aircraft as this was part of a training scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. April Lapetoda/Released)
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380 ECES firefighters train to fight

Posted 12/11/2013   Updated 12/11/2013 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. April Lapetoda
380th Air Expeditionary Wing

12/11/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- A blaring alarm broadcasts over the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron fire station's radios. The dispatcher briefs responders to respond to a fire in the boom pod of a KC-10 Extender located on the flightline here.

The firefighters quickly don their protective clothing, jump into the crash, tender, and rescue trucks, and race out to the scene. Accompanied by a 380th Expeditionary Medical Group medical team, firefighters arrive on the scene within minutes. Firefighters douse the scene with water, offload hoses and board the aircraft to begin rescue operations.

The firefighters' reactions Dec. 10, 2013, were not in response to a true crisis, rather to a training scenario.

"Our training never ends," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Ramirez, 380 ECES assistant chief of training. "The moment that we stop training (is) when our proficiency goes down. We have to be always ready, 100 percent of the time - no matter what the situation."

During response to the training scenario, firefighters shut down the aircraft, performed rescue operations, located two training dummies that simulated injured people, and transported them to the 380 EMDG medical technicians, who were standing by in a safe location.

Medical technicians then assisted the firefighters by triaging the training dummies. Then, the firefighters made sure the aircraft was fire safe to prevent any further damage to the aircraft.

Firefighters, who are deployed here, train daily, said Ramirez, who is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii. They train on a variety of training scenarios they may encounter, which include structural firefighting, aircraft firefighting and confined space.

"We train to always be ready," said Ramirez, who is deployed here from RAF Mildenhall, England. "Any time there's a call, we must be out there prepared, willing to serve and do our part."

Daily training affords newer Airmen opportunities they may not receive at home station.

"A big thing for the Airmen (here) is experience, said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Frank Poyner, 380 ECES station captain, who is deployed here from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. "In our career field, everything revolves around training... If we're not on an emergency, if we're not taking care of our station or our trucks - we're training."

That experience, in itself, gives the Airmen the background and foundation that they're going to need for the rest of their career, he said.

Air Force Senior Airman Jared Weeks, who served as the incident commander for the training scenario, gained an increased understanding of his future leadership role. During the training, he provided all guidance and direction to those performing rescue operations.

"(The training) showed me what it's like to actually run a crew, be in charge of others and supervise in an emergency," said Weeks, who is deployed here from Ellsworth AFB, S.D.

Poyner, who is originally from Berea, Calif., compared the firefighters' daily training to the human growth process.

"They have to learn to crawl before they walk and how to walk before they can run," he said. "We take them through those steps and basically prepare them to take my place as they go up in the ranks."

In addition to physical preparedness, training also helps to mentally prepare firefighters.

"Our training prepares us mentally because (the trainers) are always throwing curve balls and things that we don't expect; therefore, making us think on our feet--to be ready for anything," said Air Force Airman 1st Class Adam Hunt, a driver operator assigned to the 380 ECES.

After the scenario, Weeks led an open discussion with the firefighters and medical technicians, who were involved in the training scenario. They discussed what they did right and what could be improved upon in the future.

"This training helped me so next time when I go into it, I remember what I did wrong last time and do better," said Weeks, who is originally from Valdosta, Ga.

The measurement of success may not always be measured right away.

"What I hope they gain from this exercise is just to save that one life," said Ramirez. "If we save one, prevent one from being hurt, injured or killed ... That's the reason why we do this."

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