Below is this week’s Dispatch from Ali Base from 1st Lt. Korry Leverett.
Airmen help Iraqis fight the flames
By 1st Lt. Korry Leverett
407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
When the Ali Base firefighters of the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron aren’t saving baby camels from wells, they are taking time to train Iraqi firefighters.
Earlier this week I received a phone call from Tech. Sgt. Zachary Townsend, a firefighter with the 407th ECES, deployed from Columbus AFB, Miss., who mentioned that his Airmen would be doing “live fire” training with a group of 10 Iraqi firefighters from the Dhi Qar province, An Nasiriyah city … what an opportunity I thought.
After talking to Sergeant Townsend about his request to come out and witness the training, I gathered my Airmen and we headed out to the training site. Upon arriving on scene I realized just how hot it was, probably 115 degrees, and the wind was blowing around 40 miles per hour. These were some of the worst conditions imaginable for training outside but there was no stop in these firefighters. The dust was so bad I could taste it, and the sun beating down on me felt as if it was singeing my face.
Approximately 15 Airmen from the 407th ECES provided hands on training to the Iraqis. They set up two different live fire scenarios, a container express (CONEX) and a vehicle fire. After walking through the appropriate responses the firefighters suited up into an additional three layers of clothing and equipment. It added 70 pounds to the load they were already carrying. In teams of three, Iraqi and U.S. firefighters battled the fires setup in the CONEX and the vehicle.
I could tell this was a new experience for many of the Iraqis. I was told they had never before donned some of the safety equipment such as the protective suits or oxygen masks used by many firefighting departments. Sergeant Townsend mentioned to me that by wearing the additional equipment this would allow them to get close enough to the fire to feel the heat from the flames. I could feel the heat standing at a safe distance so I can just imagine what it must have been like walking right into the flames … well almost.
This was the final training session for the group but it wouldn’t be soon forgotten. The Airmen here had been mentoring the Iraqi firefighters for the last six weeks and I could tell that they shared a bond from their experiences together. Several of them mentioned to me that they believed this was “what it’s all about.” They knew that if they helped save even one person through their hard work with the Iraqi firefighters then they have accomplished their mission.
One last thing, earlier this year the firefighters from the 407th saved a baby camel from a well and Animal Planet has plans to do a short story on their efforts. It’s unknown at this time when the feature is expected to air but if you would like more information you can watch a brief news clip done by Staff Sgt. James Stewart, Eielson AFB, Alaska on the Ali Base Web site or visit Stars and Stripes.
ALI BASE, Iraq – Senior Airman John Black from the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron assists an Iraqi firefighter from the Dhi Qar Province, An Nasiriyah city, in positioning his safety equipment and mask before a training event here August 3. Airmen from the 407th ECES have been mentoring the Iraqi firefighters for six weeks in order to provide them with additional fire response experience and training. (US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tony R. Ritter)
ALI BASE, Iraq – A U.S. Air Force Airman from the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron directs two Iraqi firefighters from the Dhi Qar province, An Nasiriyah city, as they prepare to enter a burning Container Express (CONEX) here August 3. Airmen from the 407th ECES have been mentoring the Iraqi firefighters for six weeks in order to provide them with adequate fire response experience and training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tony R. Ritter)