Fire and ice: Icemen square off with live-fire training

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Perras
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The temperature outside is a sweltering 90 degrees - a stark contrast to the harsh winters of Interior Alaska. Despite the heat, Eielson's firefighters continue to battle the burning aircraft in front of them.

There is no emergency, however.

The aircraft is for training purposes, and firefighters with the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department are participating in an annual training requirement - an aircraft live-fire exercise.

Marc Hughes, 354th CES fire and emergency services assistant chief of training, said this type of training ultimately prepares Icemen firefighters to quickly and effectively react to potential disasters.

"With live-fire training, our firefighters are able to further their knowledge of fire behavior and firefighting tactics," he explained. "This leads to limiting damage to Air Force assets and, most importantly, saving lives during an actual emergency."

Due to the long winters at Eielson, the few months of summer present a narrow window of opportunity for firefighters here to train. Live-fire training is intended to provide the safest and best experience possible under both realistic and controlled circumstances.

With a large number of brand new firefighters on the squad, many of the more experienced firefighters were able to shed some light on different techniques, allowing the team as a whole to build on the basics of firefighting to better adapt for an actual live fire.

"This was definitely a great time to let our younger guys experience the heat for the first time," said Master Sgt. Jay Scott, 354th CES fire station chief. "It's not a [computer-based training] task where you hit a key and you're done - it really makes you work as a team, and they learn teamwork fast because if they don't, they can't accomplish the mission at hand."

This teamwork could eventually save a life, Scott added, making it that much more critical to the mission here. In a real-world scenario, there are no second chances.

"Our firefighters always exhibit a desire to serve and always strive for perfection," Hughes said. "They are dedicated to protecting life, environment and property."

As Eielson is a high-traffic location for aircraft, Hughes and Scott explained that live-fire training helps maintain a certain level of situational awareness needed to be successful in every aspect of firefighting.

"It keeps us on our toes and our training fresh, especially with the extra challenges not seen in the lower-48," Scott said. "Anything can fly through here, so we can't just think that we're not flying at Eielson and we don't need to hone our skills. We have to be ready at all times - it's that simple."

The main priority for firefighters here is maintaining the basics of firefighting or, as Scott said, putting the wet stuff on the red stuff. Although there are many more aspects to the job, all firefighters need to be able to learn and hone their skills to be ready at all times and for any type of emergency.

"Eielson's firefighters never know what they will encounter each time the alarm sounds," Hughes said. "Despite that, they proceed with the same level of commitment and service each and every time."