Coalition forces partner to fight fire
By Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 20, 2018
AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar -- A sense of urgency, a desire to help and the ability to take action — According to Lt. Col. Chad Gemeinhardt, the commander of the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, firefighters share a common purpose.
“Everyone was going in there to help,” recalled Gemeinhardt in reference to a multinational firefighter challenge that had taken place a few months prior. “Regardless of the individual that needed help, they all came to the rescue. We’re all firefighters, wherever we come from around the world.”
Firefighters from the 379th ECES and Qatar Emiri Air Force combine forces to increase mission effectiveness.
“We’ve been working together on training plans, procedures and exercises and we’ve come to a place where we’re ready to start with joint response,” Gemeinhardt said. “This is a huge first step for us and them.”
With the expansion of the base, the importance of collaborating is more present than ever. Joint response will increase the capabilities of firefighters from both the 379th ECES and QEAF.
“As Qatar continues to grow, they’re going to be expanding the mission here at Al Udeid and they’re going to be growing the fire stations,” Gemeinhardt said. “As they bring in more airframes, it’s going to be important for all of us to have an understanding of capabilities and for all of us to do our mission.
“This allows us to have combined situational awareness when it comes to first response,” continued Gemeinhardt. “We don’t want to have to slow down and ask the question of whether it’s a Qatari or U.S. aircraft. It’s all together. We’re on this installation together and provide fire emergency services together.”
According to Tech. Sgt. Michael Cross, station captain from the 379th ECES Fire and Emergency Services Flight, QEAF firefighters have not only access to “top-of-the-line equipment,” but also a shared commitment to their mission.
“Besides giving us that higher level of response capability, this gives us the availability to have 30,000 gallons of water at the flight line in a much faster manner,” Cross said. “They’re also very dedicated and look forward to training and becoming better responders. They have that same drive to want to help, work as a team and accomplish the mission.”
A training exercise on Feb. 28, a simulated fire emergency response to a C-130 Hercules aircraft, marked the first mixed response exercise in which both forces responded using the same vehicles and equipment.
“We purposefully put at least one of their firefighters as well as one of our firefighters together in each vehicle,” Gemeinhardt said. “It was a success because of how we approached the scene. There was absolutely a hustle across the board.”
Though still in an infantile stage, this collaboration marks a stark departure from the lack of communication between the forces in the past.
“Although we’ve been collocated at the same station for many years, we haven’t had the relationship that we’re currently growing today,” Gemeinhardt said. “We’re really moving forward in having joint schedules. That seems like a small thing, but having joint training schedules means that we are committed to moving forward together. It’s allowing us to plan together for the future.”