Practice Makes Perfect: 180th firefighters train to sharpen their life-saving skills

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  • By Master Sgt. Beth Holliker
  • Public Affairs
Emergency response teams rely on continuous training, education and practice scenarios in order for them to be on top of their game during real-world emergency situations. For the men and women of the 180th Fighter Wing fire department, the fall of 2010 provided an abundance of refresher, new training and certification opportunities all geared toward maintaining and sharpening their life-saving skills and abilities.

In early October, many of the 180th firefighters participated in six days of training at the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department Training Academy as part of a Rescue I certification. A Rescue I certification consists of both classroom and hands-on training in confined spaces rescue, high and low-angle rope rescue techniques, and advanced auto extraction procedures.

"In order to ride in an Air Force rescue truck as a crew member, you must be certified at this level," said Master Sgt. Timothy Schnitker, 180th Fighter Wing Fire Chief. "All members who participated in this training were awarded their rope rescue and vehicle extraction certifications."

"Completion of the confined spaces certification will take place later this year," said Master Sgt. Brian Rozick, assistant fire chief of training for the 180th Fighter Wing. "Upon completion, the firefighters will receive their Rescue I certification from the Department of Defense Fire and Emergency Services Certification Program."

Later in the month, 33 members of the 180th fire department made the 280 mile trek to the Phelps Collins Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena, MI to participate in live fire training exercises. During their time in Alpena, firefighters trained on driving a variety of fire fighting vehicles, C-130 emergency egress training and were faced with a variety of scenarios requiring them to extinguish aircraft fires.

"In addition to aircraft fires, firefighters combated structural fires that simulated search and rescue under real fire conditions," said Rozick.

The 180th fire department schedules specialized training every spring and fall in an effort to maintain their required firefighting certifications. Much of the training is held at off-base locations, such as Alpena because they offer equipment and facilities required for such specialized training as live-fire and ropes rescue, that are unavailable at home-station.

The 180th fire department provides support not only to the 180th Fighter Wing, but also to the Lucas County Port Authority, the Toledo Express Airport and offers mutual aid assistance to other local civilian emergency response units. In an effort to maintain the already established working relationships with these organizations, the 180th also trains with them throughout the year.

Because many fire departments throughout the Air Force and Department of Defense provide support to outside civilian agencies, the DOD adopted the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress standards for fire service training and certifications. This standardized training combined with multi-agency training opportunities allows for seamless integration during real-world emergency situations.

"This kind of training combined with valuable training opportunities not only strengthens our readiness," said Schnitker. "It also promotes teamwork and provides real-world experience."
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