USAFE firefighters train to rescue

by Airman 1st Class Kenny Holston
435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Sounds of twisting medal and shattering glass rang out as firefighters from around U.S. Air Forces in Europe trained to be a part of an elite rescue squad at their respective duty stations.

USAFE firefighters gathered at Ramstein for an intense 15-day training course where firefighters were pushed to use an array of skills and learn additional skills to hone their craft before returning to their units to apply the new knowledge.

“We must push these young firefighters to the limit,” said Staff Sgt. Bobbie Burnside, 86th Construction and Training Squadron rescue confine space instructor. “Each student here is being given the tools necessary to be able to be a part of their elite rescue squad at their home bases.”

Course instructors set up the training grounds by using heavy equipment to stack mangled cars, creating a realistic mass accident site. Most of the cars had simulated victims inside, putting students in several different types of situations where they had to figure out and execute the best way to rescue each victim.

“We want the training site to feel real for the students,” Sergeant Burnside said. “The more realistic the training site, the more proficient students are likely to be when put in a real world situation. So we have gone out of our way to get the equipment and tools to make that happen.”

Like many training courses, the curriculum was chockful of information firefighters would have to learn and apply upon course completion.

“We’re having the students retain a lot of information in a short amount of time,” Sergeant Burnside said. “This particular course consists of auto extraction, high angle rescue, confined space rescue and repelling. Each of these tasks is critical when being a part of a rescue unit.”

As technology continues to advance, the tools and heavy equipment firefighters use, such as the Jaws of Life, are constantly changing.

“We realize equipment changes all the time,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Stevens, 86th CTS RCS instructor. “So, this is a great opportunity for the students to familiarize themselves with the new equipment our training course offers, giving them a jump on it before receiving such equipment at their home units.”
Students were challenged to learn how to use the new, cutting-edge equipment and apply the new tools in the correct situation and at the right time.

“For a lot of us, this course has really helped us get back to the basics,” said Tech. Sgt. Tim Smith, 835th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter. “This is great proficiency training. It’s great for us to get hands-on with the new equipment that’s come out and apply it to a situation.”

With students from several different duty stations and varying in all ages and rank, instructors pushed students together, helping them learn from each other.
Students were put into teams while being evaluated at the end of each section. Instructors watched each team to see how they worked together and how well each task was performed.

“Teamwork is a lot of what we do,” said Staff Sgt. Jeff Wyatt, 86th CTS RCS instructor. “We must be able to rely on the man or woman next to us when an alert situation transpires.”

“One of the greatest benefits from this course is getting to work with everyone from around USAFE,” Sergeant Smith said. “It really enforces one team, one fight.”