Hot hands ready for action
By Airman 1st Class Kali L. Gradishar, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 23, 2007
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- In the middle of the night, you are startled awake. As the smell of smoke permeates the air, you hope that you remembered to replace the batteries in the smoke detector. You rise up and head for the bedroom door. Upon opening the door you see that your way to the front door is blocked, so you clamber out the window and head for the neighbor's house to dial 9-1-1.
Meanwhile, inside the fire station, a diverse crowd of firefighters sits around a long table placed horizontally in the middle of the room, leaning back in their chairs deep in discussion about that day's extensive training. When the call comes in, an organized scramble pursues to put on bunker gear. Pairs of feet scurry into their boots, suspenders are pulled around powerfully built shoulders and the rest of the suit seems to fall onto the firefighters' bodies.
This is a possible day in the life of a firefighter in the 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron's Fire Protection Flight. As no two days and no two emergencies are exactly alike, they must be ready for it all.
"We have to train for everything you can think of," said Tech. Sgt. Richard Galtieri, 92nd CES station captain. "We train for motor vehicle accidents, cardiac emergencies and in-flight emergencies that involve people or gas onboard. We also train in confined spaces and for many other incidents."
Imagine driving along on a snowy white road, the radio is playing your favorite tune and the crisp, cool air circulates through the car. You're heading home after a long day of work. Confident that you have plenty of experience driving in the snow, you speed up a bit in a hurry to get home. In a flash, an oncoming vehicle loses control and side swipes you, flipping your car on its top and trapping you inside.
This is yet another scenario that the fire protection flight has trained for. With the "Jaws of Life" they free you from the car, with minor scrapes and bruises.
It's not just "putting the wet stuff on the red stuff," as Sergeant Galtieri explains the basic fundamentals learned in technical school. It is much more than that.
They've built on those basic fundamentals by performing structural training, aircraft egress training, special operations training, weapons of mass destruction, confine space and high-angle situations, hazardous materials, mass decontamination, and auto extrication, with military training concluding the vast array of possible scenarios fought on a daily basis.
"The training is very physically demanding," said Kimo Kuheana, division chief, "and it is also so repetitious that it all becomes second nature."
Other than training to encounter any situation, the civilians and servicemembers at the station also complete daily vehicle checks, as well as daily details to keep the place looking sharp.
"Everyday everybody is doing something," said the division chief.
To Chief Kuheana, whose powerful presence floods the room upon entrance, the station has "its image to uphold" and must battle against the coffee-drinking, card-playing firefighter stereotype. This must be the reason for the constant search for improvement.
Aiding the servicemembers toward the goal of perfection are the civilians that work hand-in-hand during the training and executing of the skills learned in the fire protection flight. Most of them have prior military experience and have been working in the career field for years.
"The civilians provide continuity to the station," said Sergeant Galtieri. "The civilians create a more stable environment because they remain with the station as Airmen deploy and move."
With the pieces together, the civilians and the servicemembers working alongside one another, the station bestows the feeling of a home away from home. During each shift, there is a bond that develops and turns into what Chief Kuheana calls "family."