Training to protect

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kate Thornton
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Amidst the stench of billowing black smoke, the Fire Dogs of the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron battled flames that were dancing demonically throughout a simulated aircraft at the base fire training area April 9 as part of their regular training schedule designed to hone their skills.

Using many of the various weapons in their arsenal - including crucial training each firefighter is required to possess - the responders worked shoulder to shoulder to conquer the flames.

"Like any specialty, our Airmen need to train to ensure they can operate the specialized equipment and perform the vital tasks that will be required in a real fire," said Col. Mark Weatherington, 28th Bomb Wing commander. He teamed up with the firefighters during the training to gain first hand knowlege of the dangers that responders face.

Weatherington climbed into a P-23 fire truck equipped with roof and bumper turrets specially designed to combat aircraft fires and responded to the blaze in the training area. The training area is only one of five such facilities in the Air Force, providing Ellsworth firefighters with structural and aircraft mock-ups that provide firefighters with realistic scenarios using actual jet fuel.

When asked what outcome was expected from the training, Weatherington replied, "We want to ensure our firefighters can quickly respond and contain a fire or hazard in order to protect the lives of other Airmen, our families and our neighbors"

Training is a very important part of the fire protection operations. They train every day to ensure they are fully prepared to support the base and handle a variety of emergency situations.

"We don't manufacture parts or produce equipment ... we produce good firefighters," said Tech. Sgt. Blaine Holland, 28th CES fire protection station captain.

Ellsworth fire protection Airmen are trained to deal with a wide range of emergency situations, from medical response to hazardous material containment and structural and aircraft related emergencies. "Any hazard you can throw at us, we have something to battle it," said Holland, "And if we can't take it alone, we have mutual aid agreements with the surrounding areas."

Mutual aid agreements are relationships established between the Ellsworth fire department and surrounding local fire departments. Additionally, a county-wide agreement with Pennington County is in place to deal with any type of fire or major incident. Together they join forces to answer the call both on and off base. For example, Ellsworth firefighters have teamed up with other agencies to battle numerous wildfires in the surrounding region, including Ghost Canyon, Rico and East Ridge fires.

Ellsworth firefighters train with their civilian counterparts several times a year to ensure their operational terminology is mutually understood, and they are collectively working toward a common goal.

"The public counts on their local fire department to be capable and competent in a time of emergency, and that type of execution requires a structured training plan which provides ample opportunities for training," said Master Sgt. Steven O'Connell, 28th CES fire emergency services fire chief.