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378 ECES fire department improve skills through training

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cary Smith
  • 378th AEW/PA

A team of firefighters sit on a hand-built porch attached to their expeditionary work tent. The hot morning sun rose as the crew talk amongst themselves.

Suddenly, an alarm sounds. Everyone jumps and moves at once. The team rushes to their trucks where they put on their protective gear. They hop into the trucks and were off to respond.

A line of emergency response vehicles heads down the flightline towards a row of parked UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and the simulated fuel fire.  

Even though this situation was a training exercise, the actions were all the same, and time was of the essence.

“The main goals of our exercises are to continue to strengthen our skills and performance as a team and to stay prepared for the worst but hope for the best,” said Master Sgt. Holland, 378th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, station chief.

Fire engines with water cannons approached the Blackhawk from different angles. As soon as the trucks stopped, firefighters were out and pulled hoses to attack the fire. Three teams of two firefighters manned hoses to douse the simulated fire marked by orange cones while the water cannons sprayed.

Their focus was the victim trapped in the fire. They had a top priority, get the person to safety. When the fire was deemed safe, two other firefighters rushed in to carry the victim to safety.

“For all our responses, life safety comes first. Then we focus on protecting property and the environment,” said Holland. “The incident commander on scene determines the mode of attack based on the information given or discovered at the scene of the emergency.” 

According to Holland, different types of response vehicles provide different capabilities, all at the direction of the incident commander. Flightline responses require certain procedures and the vehicles are equipped to specifically handle aircraft mishaps involving jet fuel, carbon fiber and brake fires.

As quickly as the exercise started, it had ended. The firefighters knew their job well and their actions were perfectly executed as directed by the incident commander.

Senior Airman Pfau, 378th ECES fire fighter, said as the scene unfolds, there are specific tasks he oversees.

“My main job is to supply trucks with the appropriate amount of water to complete our task safely and efficiently,” said Pfau. “I am focused on positions of the vehicles, which trucks need water, and how I am going to get it to them without endangering myself or others.”

Pfau added that initially, having a team full of people from different bases causes a learning curve, but once everyone understands each other’s strengths and weaknesses they can grow and function better as a team.

Another adjustment is the weather in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hot, dry climates require Airmen to stay hydrated and energized at all times. Exercises are normally completed when the weather is cooler, but a real-world incident can happen at any time.

To prepare for those incidents, Holland and his team plan to train and exercise often.

“We will continue to give our firefighters every chance to expose them to the different types of aircraft at this location. We also have newer Airmen we need to help get trained on different trucks and equipment here,” said Holland.

The firefighting teams at Prince Sultan Air Base will continue to provide life safety and property conservation practices. While the wing completes its mission, base personnel can be confident that their aircraft and facilities are protected.