ARFF Training Keeps Firefighters Mission-Ready
Three minutes. That is the amount of time firefighters have to respond to an unannounced aircraft fire on Camp Lemonnier's flightline.
While this timeframe may seem impossible to most, aircraft rescue firefighting training allows a three-minute response time to become a reality. This opportunity was opened up to service members when they recently joined Pacific Architects and Engineer civilian firefighters to attend the ARFF training here.
"Our primary goal in ARFF is to go in [the aircraft] and save the aircrew and passengers," said Edward Moody, PAE lead firefighter inspector and deployed from Bowling Green, Ky. "It's such a high-risk activity that we have to keep practicing because there is no room for mistakes. After completion of this course the students have the basic skills to handle an aircraft accident scenario."
The training consisted of five classroom days, a written test and an outdoor practical examination where students applied everything they had learned. The classroom portion covered aircraft familiarization, hazards and suppression techniques particular to aircraft, and firefighter safety.
According to Moody, here on camp there is both a structural and airfield commitment, meaning firefighters are required to take care of the base and the airfield. Since there is a limited amount of firefighters who have an airfield commitment at their home station, finding this training stateside can be difficult and expensive.
"I live in a small rural Oklahoma town with a volunteer fire department and our small department does not have much money or organized training. So, this was an excellent training opportunity," said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew McDonald, a pilot deployed in support of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa mission. "The instructors brought many years of experience to the class as well as top-of-the-line equipment to train with."
Some of the PAE firefighters met their annual proficiency requirement while others received certification for the first time. All were able to share their knowledge.
"It was also nice to have other soldiers in the class with various backgrounds and firefighting experience," McDonald said. "This was excellent training and I hope the fire department continues offering classes to the base populace."
Currently in the fire house there are firefighters of many different nationalities and skill levels, Moody said. They all work together to help each other and advance. As a stepping stone, one of the requirements is to become certified in the ARFF training.
Mahamoud Osman, PAE firefighter, is a local Djiboutian who has worked with the department for five years. He expressed his thankfulness to receive this kind of training experience and is glad to become certified.
"I enjoyed the training, it was good for me to learn from other people," Osman said. "I learned how to fight engine fires, wall fires and how to conduct a rescue from an aircraft mock-up."
Along with the rest of the attendees, Osman agreed with McDonald in how important and beneficial the ARFF training is.
"It's important because I am learning to save lives," Osman continued. "Maybe in the future I can help my country and train new firefighters and it's important for me to help people."