German firefighters deploy to help keep Italian military housing area safe

Markus Rademacher, Stephan Uhrig, and Ulf Burger pose in front of the water tender near the Villaggio Housing Area in Vicenza Italy in October 2019. (Courtesy Photo)

A recent fix to a water tower in a military housing area in Italy led to a month-long partnership between U.S. Army garrisons in Germany and Italy.

U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz deployed three firefighters to U.S. Army Garrison Italy Sept. 9-Oct. 9 after the Vicenza-based post started repair on a water tower in its Villaggio Housing Area. The tower generates approximately 70 percent of the water flow for the fire hydrants and fire suppression systems there.

“USAG Italy does not contain any assets within the garrison that could be utilized, so we reached back to [Installation Management Command-Europe] for a fire tender and three personnel to support the 30-day mission,” said U.S. Army Col. Daniel J. Vogel, commander of USAG Italy.

Italy’s ‘reach back’ paid off. Rheinland-Pfalz sent a fire tender truck and three Sembach-based local national firefighters: Ulf Burger, Markus Rademacher, and Stephan Uhrig, who were excited about the challenge.

“[I wanted to] become more experienced, see another garrison and see how the American and Italian firefighters work,” said Uhrig. “This was a good chance as a local national to see more of the system and not just the fire station on our installation.”

USAG Italy’s Fire Chief Jeff Hawkins said the three visiting firefighters hit the ground running. “This team of professionals assimilated as seamlessly as I ever witnessed. They became one team, one mission, one goal.”

In the 30 days, they responded to 52 emergency calls, participated in or led more than 47 hours of training, and helped with six large public education events connecting with more than 2,000 base personnel.

When discussing accepting the deployment, Burger said he could not pass up the experience, adding, “They are great firefighters down there, and they do a great job.”

Rademacher echoed his colleague’s words. “It was a great experience to meet new people and [observe] another system in another country. The system was a bit different, and it was interesting to see.”

USAG RP Fire Chief Marsh Fiedler said he was proud of the trio’s work and his team’s ability to deploy when needed.

“It was a good opportunity for them to see another firefighting organization, train with the Italian and American firefighters, and learn different rescue and firefighting techniques,” Fiedler said. “They bring new ideas or different methods back to our garrison and share with the other firefighters here. Overall, the task was a good experience.”

“Their actions alone reflect great credit on their department for sending the best to help the USAG-I team,” Vogel said. “They did such a good job while here that a couple of the Italian firefighters suggested they should be considered as our Firefighter of the Quarter. That says a lot.”

Fiedler said the deployment is an example of his entire team’s capability and willingness to serve. “They do great work taking care of our people, they’re committed to the mission, and they’re excited to step up and support whenever needed.”