WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. –
Members of the Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve trained for the past year to ultimately team up with 5th Armored Brigade observer, coach, trainers and WSMR firefighters for their final validation, a culminating training exercise here March 17-28.
“We’re deploying with the 216th Firefighter Command,” said 1st Lt. Christian Trainor, firefighter with the 216th Firefighter Engineer Detachment (Firefighter Team), South Dakota Army National Guard. “We’re going to be overseeing three units from [Houston,] Texas and one from Boston. We do everything from firefighting to making sure everything’s up to code for buildings and electrical.”
As tactical experts in firefighting operations, first aid and rescue procedures, soldiers with the 216th FED, ARNG, and firefighter engineer detachments with the 416th Engineer Command (Firefighter Team), USAR out of Houston, Texas, will assume the fire protection of aviation assets, facilities, and installations mission throughout the European Theater in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The CTE is the last stop before heading overseas, a final evaluation, led by WSMR trainers, and observer, coach, trainers with Task Force Thunder, 3rd Battalion, 410th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West, who assessed the unit’s ability to give first aid to injured personnel, perform emergency response duties during hazardous materials incidents, inspect buildings and equipment for fire hazards, and brief fire protection procedures.
“One of the goals of the CTE is to give Soldiers the knowledge and confidence they need to safely and effectively execute their mission overseas,” said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron M. Morris, firefighter OC/T with TF Thunder, 3-410th Brigade Engineer Battalion. “From day one to now, their confidence level and cohesion increased vastly. We have U.S. Army active-duty OC/Ts and installation firefighters working together with the South Dakota ARNG, and USAR from Houston, embodying the total force partnership needed to get everyone on the same page.”
The Army total force participates in realistic, flexible training tailored to enhance combat-credible land forces.
“The CTE is more fast paced with real-world scenarios than the training we have done in the past because we're mobilizing for deployment,” said Spc. Cameron Singletary, firefighter with 548 Firefighter Engineer Detachment, USAR. “It's surreal since this is my first deployment, and so far, it's been all positive experiences. First Army OC/Ts, not only helped me finetune firefighting tactics and procedures, but also encouraged me to pursue tuition assistance for academic advancement while deployed on my spare time.”
Soldier firefighters are trained on performing rescue and firefighting operations during structural fires, aircraft crashes, vehicle emergencies and natural cover fires.
“We are evaluating a building inspection and pre-fire plan modules for today’s training exercise,” said Michael Fritz, assistant chief of training, WSMR Fire Department. “It's a full fire inspection, just like an inspector would go in and do for any other kind of occupancy and then pre-plans for the response of the fire crews, which increases their ability to save lives.”
WSMR Fire Department and TF Thunder, 3-410th BEB, have a long-standing training relationship with preparing firefighters for deployment.
“For the past nine years, we've assisted TF Thunder on validating firefighting, aircraft, vehicle fires, the industrial pipeline fires, structural fires, search and rescue, smoke field environment tactics, hazmat responses to include tank rollovers, rail car responses, and live fires,” added Fritz.
Each firefighter serves an integral role in the larger picture. The convergence of standard operating procedures, experience, and knowledge shared throughout the past year and this CTE will go forward to Europe with the firefighter teams.
“I'm happy to be deploying with the guys in my team,” said Sgt. Ryan Lavine, firefighter with 547 Engineer Firefighter Detachment, USAR. “A lot of them have experience as civilian firefighters and the ones that don't are motivated to learn and apply the skills that we've been fine-tuning this past year.”
Army firefighters are similar to their civilian counterparts in many ways including an inherent selflessness, a willingness to risk injury or death to save others.
“The camaraderie, tactical and technical aptitude gained, competitiveness and ability to serve a greater purpose are some of the many reasons which attracted me to become a firefighter," said Spc. Christopher Morales, father of two and firefighter with 548 EFD, USAR. "I also serve as a Department of Defense firefighter in my hometown of Houston, Texas. I look forward to taking the knowledge and confidence I gained during the past year, this CTE, and my teammates forward with me on this next chapter of our service to Europe.”