Fire team feels heat of live exercise

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Claire Behney
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing
Pushing the text books aside, feeling the heat, pumping your adrenalin and getting real life, hands-on experience is part of what makes a fire department a success. Nothing motivates an Air Force firefighter like live fire.

And while fulfilling their annual training requirements at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.., simulated aircraft fire pit, the 193rd Special Operations Wing Fire Department, Middletown, Pa., was able to step out of a typical classroom education setting and do just that.

Maj. James Wymer, base civil engineer and base fire marshal for the 193rd said to practice the way you're going to fight is imperative to the fire department because there's no way to train for a fire except to be in one.

"Once you see that fire burning you get that sense of urgency," Wymer said.

Master Sgt. Douglas Hoy, assistant chief of training of the 193rd Fire Department, echoed similar sentiments about the significance of this training for the department.

"Any time we get the opportunity to put our firefighters in a training environment where it's controlled, they can operate safely and they can work on their basic firemen skills we take the opportunity to do that," said Hoy.

The firefighters of the 193rd and McGuire worked hand-in-hand putting out ground fires and wing and tail engine fires on the base's simulator aircraft.

"I think it's a great opportunity for the Air Force as a whole," said Master Sgt. William Ferguson, assistant chief of training at McGuire. "We get deployed together so it only makes sense to get training together before we go on an actual deployment."

Preparing for deployment and staying up-to-date on requirements are what annual training is all about. With experience come knowledge and the ability to make reactions to dangerous situations second nature.

"If you're not trying to simulate the real environment it's just not the same thing," said Wymer. "There are to many variables that are different and I think this training helps to eliminate some of those variables and basically get you close to the real thing."

Gaining experience with a simulator aircraft fire allows the 193rd Fire Department the opportunity to be sure they are doing what they need to do to prepare themselves for any real life situation they may encounter.

"We have a lot of young firefighters who don't have the experience of facing different situations, either aircraft or structure fires, so this training gives them the opportunity to do some hands on training to learn from their experiences," said Hoy.

Airman 1st Class Jody Meade is a civilian volunteer firefighter with Station 230 out of Millville, Pa., and Station 120 out of Berwick, Pa. With these two fire companies he runs structure fires so being able to train on a simulated aircraft he is able to face the challenges of fighting a fuel fire as he would for the 193rd.

"When I get to come out here and do aircraft fires I feel more prepared when I come to the guard unit," said Meade.

Wymer was able to suit up in some of the fire department's new bunker gear to feel the heat. "We do this once a year so I wanted to get out and basically feel what they feel, see what they see, see what their issues are and really just walk a few steps in their footprints," he said.

Wymer was able to enter the flames twice. The first time he was the back-up man, supporting the main man carrying the fire hose. The second time Wymer was the main man, operating the fire hose.

"They have a tough job," Wymer said. "You would think walking 15 feet carrying hose doesn't look very strenuous, but by the time you get to that distance you're out of breath; and when you have 80 pounds of gear on you it's difficult and it's a lot harder than it looks."

Wymer and Hoy both said it requires a certain type of person to be a firefighter. Someone who has strength, who's in good condition, who is tenacious and dedicated to the mission, are just a few of the characteristics they stated.

"I think what it takes from an Airman is a willingness to do the job, to be open to learn and to be open to some constructive criticism when they've made a mistake," Hoy said.

For a firefighter being able to apply what has been learned during training could mean the difference between life and death. Through completing their annual training requirements the 193rd Fire Department is able to better prepare themselves for when they're called upon for a state or federal mission.