Skip to comments.Airmen train Iraqis to save lives
Posted on 03/25/2008 5:15:09 PM PDT by SandRat
3/25/2008 - ALI BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- Nine Iraqi firefighters graduated the Basic Firefighter Skills Course here as Airmen of the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Fire Department trained the newest graduates March 24 at Ali Base.
The six-week course teaches students "the basics of fighting fires, search and rescue and lifesaving skills," said Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Horne, the 407th ECES fire chief.
Hazim Nadoom, an Iraqi who has been translating the course for the firefighters since 2006, said the course is working.
"We have a guy from two classes ago who was able to save a little baby and a 3-year-old in a house fire because of this training," he said.
Years before those children were saved, Air Force and Iraqi firefighters responded to a hospital fire here. It was discovered (the Iraqi firefighters) "training and equipment were minimal," according to an Enabling Forces Assessment dated Nov. 24, 2006, which is a compilation of interviews and information about the need to form a training relationship between the two fire departments.
The program was stood up by Air Force firefighters who were deployed to Ali Base and the training has continued since. The program has two main agendas -- one is to train the firefighters on the basics, and the second is to give the Iraqis equipment donated from fire departments in the United States.
The Iraqis attend six, three-hour training blocks, including courses such as basic fire principles, putting out live fires, or "live burns," and medical training; all of which are found in a new recruit's first weeks of training at the Department of Defense Fire Academy.
"Out in town, these guys are just hired and then learn how to fight fires on the job; they don't attend an academy," said Tech. Sgt. Robert Bogle, the 407th ECES Fire Department assistant chief of training. "Most of these guys have more than a year's (worth of) experience fighting fires, but they may not understand exactly what they're fighting or how to fight it safely."
So eight to 10 local firefighters, chosen from more than 1,400 in the area, travel by bus to attend the training to "take these skills back to those in the fire houses, so they can impact all the firemen who can't make a class out here," said Sergeant Bogle, who's deployed from Lincoln Air National Guard Base, Neb.
As for the basic principle of firefighting, "we are using very old techniques still and it's great to learn the latest techniques on how to save people and put out fires," Mr. Hazim said.
Although the Iraqis' techniques may be old and their equipment nearly non-existent, this doesn't mean the Air Force firefighters can't learn from their foreign counterparts.
"We both learn something from this," said Chief Horne, deployed from Lincoln ANGB. "We show them and they show us. They're very resourceful with what they have."
The assessment detailed the cross-flow of information saying "Iraqi firefighters utilize hand tools and have taught the U.S. Air Force firefighters very effective extraction skills using locally available tools when reacting to emergency situations."
"Air Force firefighters are taught to consider their safety first. If you become another casualty you're in no position to help anybody else," Sergeant Bogle said. "(During the class) we spend a lot of time on safety and how to wear their gear properly, because they don't have this at their fire houses. It's all new and unfamiliar to them."
For safety reasons and so the Iraqis can use their new training, the Air Force firefighters here try to find departments back home to donate their excess equipment.
"They are fighting fires in coveralls and plastic helmets," he said. "It's the most important thing they need and they just don't have enough for the 1,400 firefighters protecting the 750,000 people who live here."
"With the limited equipment and fire protection in buildings, it's really an up hill battle for them," the chief said. "That's why we're depending on local fire departments back home, the ones who get refitted with all new gear and send us their excess."
Although the Iraqis and Americans employ different skill sets and wear different cloths, a firefighter is still a firefighter.
"It doesn't matter what country you're from, we're all one family and the Iraqis come in here and joke and have fun just like the rest of the firefighters," Chief Horne said.
"This is a brotherhood, that's all it is," Mr. Hazim said. "When these dudes graduate, they'll remember this training for the rest of their lives."
Staff Sgt. David Parker, Senior Airman Peter Franco and Tech. Sgt. Duane Eivins watch an Iraqi firefighter compete in the "firefighter challenge" March 24 at Ali Base, Iraq. The Iraqis had to pass the challenge in under 8 minutes to graduate the Basic Firefighter Skills Course. In this challenge, the firefighter had to drag a rescue dummy 100 feet while walking backward. Sergeant Parker, Airman Franco and Sergeant Eivins are 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sabrina Johnson)