JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- Firefighters from the 633d Civil Engineer Squadron along with firefighters from the 142d Civil Engineer Squadron Air National Guard and Hampton Division of Fire and Rescue performed joint fire suppression and rescue training at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Nov. 16, 2022.
The exercise was put together by the JBLE and Hampton fire departments to further develop their relationship and strengthen the mutual-aid agreement they have that states each department will supplement the other’s manpower for large scale emergencies.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Zachary Edwards, 633d CES firefighter, in charge of running the exercise said, “Training together allows us to be familiar with each other’s emergency operating procedures, so when a large emergency arises, we’re ready to mitigate the incident efficiently and effectively.”
Each department has their own way of completing the mission; to stamp out fires, rescue people and save lives. Through joint training the departments are able to identify where any operating differences lie and how both can further improve their capabilities.
Edwards emphasized that identifying these differences and opportunities to learn from each other antecedently to receiving an emergency call is critical. Establishing a strong rapport and comfortability with each other will provide an advantage when the time comes to work together in a real-world scenario.
Lt. Edward Van Es Jr., Hampton Division of Fire and Rescue firefighter in charge of their training division, said, “It is very important for continued growth in the profession of firefighting. In general, we do not fight as many fires as in years past, so we have to be even more ready at the time the tones drop. Joint training gives us the opportunity for knowledge, skills and abilities to improve, grow and change culture. Most importantly, build trust for each other in the event we are ever called to each other’s jurisdiction.”
The training encompassed battling a “Class A” fire, consisting of wood acting as the catalyst for combustion. The firefighters had to deal with heat and smoke while rescuing simulated victims on the second and third story of a burn building whilst subduing the fire.
The joint team’s skills and knowledge in casualty recovery, fire safety and suppression were tested, with the additional challenge of working with new teammates with different methods, resources and terminology.
Edwards stated the communication differences were the biggest challenge to learn and overcome between the two departments. Sorting through the different jargon, acronyms and methods of correspondence proved to be vital to the success of the training.
“Hampton Fire’s terminology and radio procedures are different from Langley Fire’s. For example, on the radio Langley states the call sign of the person we’re trying to contact then we state our callsign”, said Edwards. “Hampton Fire does their radio traffic the other way around. It would be very dangerous if that wasn’t identified, and we did a joint operation together because of all the confusion of who is talking to who during an emergency.”
The high-stress exercise identified where the departments differ and proved to be imperative for the interoperability of the joint team. Both departments plan to continue joint training to further develop real-world readiness and eliminate discrepancies to best serve the wing and the community at large.