A first-of-its-kind training exercise held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Sept. 28 demonstrated what base and community fire personnel already know: their jobs are demanding, challenging and complex but rewarding.
The event, “Fire Ops 101”, brought together the Wright-Patterson AFB Fire Department, part of the 788th Civil Engineer Squadron; additional base personnel; fire personnel from mutual aid partners Beavercreek Twp., Xenia and Fairborn; and local dignitaries and elected decision-makers.
Dozens of people suited up in personal protective gear to experience various scenarios of what firefighters and emergency response personnel experience as they protect people and property.
The base’s fire training facility, along Riverview Road north of the Area A flightline, comprises several towers and an aircraft trainer hull. For the event, it was complemented by a quartet of cars used for an extrication scenario and the Xenia fire department’s search trailer, which can be filled with dense smoke to simulate the challenges of searching for people needing rescue during a fire.
“We hope you take away some good experiences today and some stories that stick with you that will help you make important decisions that deal with the fire service,” said Wright-Patterson AFB Firefighter and Paramedic Brian Grubb, International Association of Fire Fighters Local F88 president.
Grubb helped organize the event and said union dues helped pay for much of the exercise. Wright-Patt firefighters also volunteered personal time to assist with the program.
“That’s how sincere we are about the success of this program,” Grubb said.
Wright-Patterson AFB Fire Chief Jacob King told the crowd that a spirit of collaboration was the essence of the day.
“We’re working together for a common goal – that’s what we do on a daily basis,” he said.
“This is a great opportunity for our military and civilian leaders to experience hands-on what a ‘day in the life’ of fire and emergency services personnel deal with on a regular basis,” King said. “This is a great program to show what it takes to pull a hand line into a house or use the jaws of life to get a car door open. It gives our perspective and multiple levels of benefits. All of this is our craft.”
Maj. Tyler Johnson, 788 CES commander, said he hoped participants walked away with a sense of the fire and emergency responders’ selflessness, technical proficiency and mutual aid cooperation.
“We’re growing that bond, that sense of community partnership so when we work together we already know one another and have that connection,” he said. “That helps on a response and provides better service.”
Collette Myers, an Air Force Materiel Command A1KL labor relations specialist for firefighters on multiple bases, said she was delighted to participate so she could experience what firefighters do. She spoke after dragging a dummy from the burn tower during a scenario with actual fire and then climbing to the tower’s second story with a hose.
“I already had respect for their mission but to actually go into the burn tower was scary. My heart rate was elevated. You couldn’t really see well; you really had to trust your teammate,” she said. “You can’t see with the smoke, and it got really hot. It was a good experience to know what firefighters have to do to save a life. It was pretty amazing and impressive.”
Myers said she will tell others in her office, “It’s harder than it appears. It’s much more difficult. I have a new level of respect.”
Wright-Patterson AFB Firefighter and Driver/Operator Andy Short from Station 3 in Area B, was paired with Myers and helped coach her.
“Today it’s important to show what we do – we’re out protecting our people, protecting the base,” Short said.
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