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Firefighter for a Day program builds cohesion among base personnel

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jordan Martin
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The Firefighter for a Day program at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, goes beyond the average firehouse tour.

Participants not only get to explore the station, ride in the fire truck and even spray the hose, but what makes the program truly special is the earned-in-sweat accomplishment after enduring an exhausting set of challenges.

“Be prepared to sweat, be prepared to talk to yourself and be prepared to be pushed,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kristopher Boysel, a fire operations crew chief with the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. “We want to push you to your limits within safety reason. It’s not to work you down, but it’s to show you that you can push yourself through anything physically, you just have to put your mind to it.”

Participants face a series of physical challenges that mimic what firefighters experience in emergency situations. Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Robinson, fire chief of Al Udeid AB, assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, hopes that volunteers will discover and appreciate the great men and women who protect Al Udeid AB.

“Staff Sgt. Boysel is the architect behind what some have called an ‘unforgettable experience.’ The purpose of the Firefighter for a Day program is reciprocal,” said Robinson. “It allows participants a hands-on experience of what it takes to be a firefighter, provides firsthand knowledge about the equipment, technology and tactics used in Air Force fire protection, strengthens team building skills and reinforces trust and communication within the community in which we serve.”

The Al Udeid Fire Department provides professional emergency response, aggressive fire prevention and community education programs to preserve the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing’s ability to support combat operations.  

“Our mission is to lessen the risk, both on the probability and the consequence axes, that the wing takes while accomplishing its mission,” said Robinson.

After a short tour of the fire station and its equipment, volunteers faced their first challenge—a firefighter fitness test.

“It’s a test that we have to take annually as firefighters,” said Boysel. “It’s in our gear and gives them kind of a real-life experience of what it’s like to be physically exhausted inside of fire gear.”

Participants move from station to station; all while being timed. Whether it’s dragging a heavy mannequin to safety or pulling a fire hose across the parking lot, each task compounds on the one before it. Senior Airman Nyell Sanchez, assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group as a medical logistics technician, said the experience was one he wouldn’t forget.

“They put me in a lot of tough situations,” said Sanchez. “The suit was a lot hotter than I thought it would be and I definitely had to push myself in the end once I got to the dummy drag. It makes me respect their career field a lot more.”

Following completion of the firefighter fitness test, they switch to “disoriented firefighting”. Volunteers are first blindfolded and then sent through a confined-spaces obstacle course. They must crawl through cramped obstacles and they must do it as a team. Clear communication and focus get the teams through each obstacle. 

According to Sanchez, navigating through the confined spaces was the most challenging part of the day for him.

“I had to control myself that way I could really think and get through what I needed to get through,” said Sanchez.

Whether Airmen work in an office, or turn wrenches on the flight line, it is rare that they experience another career field beyond their own. However, everyone on Al Udeid AB benefits from the hard work and expertise of the fire department. Through programs like Firefighter for a Day, the fire department enhances cohesion between themselves and the base personnel they serve, allowing everyone to better complete the mission and posture to prevail tomorrow.

“The participants are really only getting a small example of what we do,” said Boysel. “Which means that if we can show you how hard it is in 2-3 hours, it puts a big picture on what it’s like to do if 24/7.”