Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Putting Out the Flames at Patriot Warrior

Patriot Warrior 2017
U.S. Air Force firefighters with the 944th Civil Engineer Squadron, Luke AFB, Ariz., 445th Civil Engineer Squadron, Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, 932nd Civil Engineer Squadron, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and the 910th Civil Engineer Squadron, Youngstown, Ohio, respond to a C-130 Hercules aircraft crash training scenario, during exercise Patriot Warrior at Young Air Assault Strip, Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 11, 2017. Patriot Warrior is an Air Force Reserve training exercise designed to enhance wartime skills in a deployment-style environment and evaluate the ability of units to deploy mobility airlift and agile combat support capabilities in support of joint theater operations. ( U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez )
Story by Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez
4th Combat Camera Squadron 

The call to serve, protect and cover your buddy’s back is a common theme in the military, but one group that fully embraces that motto are firefighters within the Armed Forces. When the heat comes on at Patriot Warrior 2017, firefighters are ready to put out the flames.

Patriot Warrior is the Air Force Reserve Command's four-week premier exercise at Fort McCoy, Young Air Assault Strip, and Volk Field Air National Guard Base, Wisconsin. Citizen Airmen from across the Air Force Reserve come together to sharpen their skills. It provides an opportunity for Airmen to train with joint services and is designed to test Reservists’ ability to provide combat-ready forces and operate in dynamic, contested environments.

"They put us in difficult, uncomfortable situations, but that's when we learn the most," said Senior Airman Adam Coyle, a 445th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
Six different squadrons of firefighters from across the country participated in this year’s Patriot Warrior, with many of the firefighters slated to deploy overseas in the next year. Besides learning to operate in a joint environment, the airmen engaged in hands-on training, not just with other USAF firefighters, but U.S. Army as well.

In Patriot Warrior, teams battle controlled burns, attend land-navigation classes, and update their proficiency with firefighting tools while learning about the structure, systems, and challenges that occur in a variety of scenarios. They also become well acquainted with the emergency procedures of the C-130 Hercules aircraft and Army HH-60M MEDEVAC helicopter.

By far, the most memorable event is the jet fuel fire-pit training. Flames leap and contort into a massive pillar of smoke as the firefighters practice attack tactics, combating the aircraft fire with the air rescue and fire fighting vehicles using line operations. "This hands-on training would not be possible back at home station, which doesn’t have those types of capabilities or funding,” said Senior Airman Alexandrina Lopez, 445th CES firefighter.

During the exercise, they practiced automobile extrication where vehicles are set up to simulate accidents with trapped passengers. The scenario is developed to train them on practical skills as well as challenging their decision-making abilities as they apply various tactics to secure the vehicles and save the victims. Their skills are tested during a night-time low water crossing Humvee Extrication scenario where they apply their land navigation skills while using night vision goggles to rescue injured victims in a hostile environment.

The experience and skills developed in these training scenarios are invaluable. As one of the firefighters, Senior Airman Jacob Conway, 445th Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, remarked, "I joined firefighting because I think it’s the greatest job in the world. I love going to work, helping people, and doing something I always wanted to do since I was a kid."

See more photos here.