Fire protection is truly expeditionary Published Jan. 24, 2007 By Senior Airman Aldric Borders 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Fire protection is taken seriously. No matter which installation, one is sure to find a fire department embedded with a civil engineer squadron. However, this begs the question about who responds when fire protection is needed outside the wire. The 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron's Fire and Emergency Services Flex Team deploys at a moment's notice to forward operating bases to provide aircraft rescue, emergency medical and firefighting support whenever and wherever needed. Humanitarian and special operations missions also need fire protection for aircrews as they venture throughout the area of responsibility. While forward deployed, the Flex Team remains completely self-sufficient by providing their own vehicles and equipment while embedding within Army ground units in the field. "The team normally leaves with an Air Force P-19 airport rescue fire-fighting vehicle, which is an all-terrain fire truck capable of responding to aircraft petroleum, oil and lubricant fires," said Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Westort, 379th Chief of Fire and Emergency Services. "They also take tools to set up emergency water supplies used to refill the truck with water." The team is also responsible for meeting up with aircraft landing in the AOR. Once the aircraft touches ground, the flex team, and the Army unit they are embedded with, and provide security along with fire protection while the aircrew loads, unloads, and performs its duties. "The team secures the runway and provides a protective perimeter," he said. "We're there as a preventative measure, as insurance if something should go wrong we're there in place," said Sergeant Westort. "We're the first in and the last out." In addition to preventative measures, the seven-man team receives extensive training in handling a multitude of real-world situations. After being handed a Flex Team assignment, firefighters go through a three-week Army combat skills training course that serves as a crash course in learning how to hold ground against an opposing enemy force. The course includes combat lifesavers training to learn skills similar to that of an emergency medical technician, he said. With the right training and tools, the team keeps the mission going, protecting one plane at a time, no matter where it might be. Their versatility shines through everyday, said Sergeant Westort. The team has to be more flexible and versatile when forward deployed into the field; they have to be responsive to travel anywhere the mission requires, as opposed to focusing solely on protecting the base, said Tech. Sgt. Shannon Anderson, 379th FES assistant chief of training. "If parts on the P-19 airport rescue fire-fighting vehicle break or need to be replaced while out in the field, they have to find solutions," he said. "It might require working with the Army to get their needs met and sometimes they call back here to see if we can get something airlifted to them." "Because the flex team supports aircraft operations theater-wide, it is easy to see," Sergeant Anderson said. "The Flex Team is truly expeditionary."