Army, AF conduct firefighter training

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Tramel S. Garrett
21st TSC Public Affairs

A crowd of frightened people scamper franticly out of a burning building as they rush toward safety. The crowd stands helpless, looking as all their personal belongings go up in flames.

Suddenly, they hear the screaming echoes of sirens and, to their surprise, a group of Soldiers dressed in firefighting gear arrives. The Soldiers then run into the burning building with the intent to save lives and protect personal property. This is just an example of what an Army firefighter risks to serve his country.

“I think it takes a special person to run into the fire when everyone else is running out,” said Pfc. Michael Hamilton, a firefighter with the 23rd Ordnance Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

The firefighters of the 23rd Ord. Co. conducted aircraft burn training with the 886th Civil Engineer Squadron March 23 on Ramstein in front of a special guest.

Maj. Gen. Patricia E. McQuistion, commanding general of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, received a tour of the training area and observed the Soldiers and Airmen extinguish a fire set to a mock aircraft.

General McQuistion also tried on the firefighter gear, used the fire hose and received a demonstration on the use of the Jaws of Life, a tool used to pry open parts of a vehicle to free those trapped inside.

After watching how the Soldiers and Airmen train and learning about the various tools the firefighters use, General McQuistion expressed to the Soldiers and Airmen how impressed she was with the group and its leaders.

In order to become efficient with their job, the Soldiers and Airmen train constantly to improve their skills and responsiveness.

Upon entering the military, Army firefighters attend 13 weeks of Advanced Individual Training in which they learn first aid procedures, rescue procedures and firefighting equipment operation.

In addition, the Soldiers rotate monthly from Grafenwöhr to Ramstein to execute detailed training exercises to become more proficient in their field.

“With the training, I feel like I can save lives,” said Spc. Stephen Virgil, a firefighter with the 23rd Ord. Co. The Soldiers also work with civilian firefighters, who help the Soldiers train and sharpen their skill in the areas of inspecting buildings and equipment for fire hazards and responding to emergency situations.

“I’ve been a firefighter for 40 years. I like to help people and train other firefighters,” said Dieter Bestyak, KMC fire department training officer.

“There is a lot of hard work that goes into being a firefighter,” said Sgt. Cleveland Brasiendton, a firefighter with the 23rd Ord. Co.

In addition to firefighting training that focuses on saving lives and protecting equipment, Army firefighters also go out to the communities and talk with people, especially children, about fire safety.

 “We go to schools and teach fire prevention. We get involved with kids and teach them different techniques to get them out of a house fire,” Sergeant Brasiendton said.

Prior to the military, Sergeant Brasiendton volunteered at the fire department in his hometown after 9/11. As a result, it became a full-time job. Sergeant Brasiendton said he saw the effect firefighting had on the community and decided to join the Army as a firefighter.

“Firefighting is my life. I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” he said.