Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Top Story>>Team Little Rock Airman trains Iraqi firefighters

By Senior Master Sgt. Trish Freeland
U.S. Air Forces Central - Baghdad Media Outreach Team

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi firefighters are more than half-way through the firefighter apprentice course being taught for the first time in Baghdad’s International Zone. The class was previously conducted at Taji Military Base just north of Baghdad but the location lacked advanced live fire trainers and had a very limited capacity for students.

“The maximum class size at Taji was 10. In the IZ, we have five extra instructors from Civil Defense who enable us to teach an additional 24 students for just one class,” said Tech. Sgt. Brian Partido, a fire rescue advisor deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

The new location allows firefighters from the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense, which includes the Iraqi air force and army, to come together at one location for training. This particular training session marked the first time the two ministries worked together at this level.

“It was easy to show how beneficial the training would be. The Iraqi air force firefighters weren’t getting the training they needed at Taji,” said Maj Trenton Roney, a training advisor deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va.

“Combining the course not only helped the MoD, but also the MoI. They were granted access to the Iraqi air force fire truck and firefighter suits that are being used for the training,” said Major Roney, a self-labeled military brat whose parents reside in Davidsonville, Md.

The sixty-day course was designed and conducted by the Coalition Air Force Training Team, a division of Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq and augmented by U.S. Air Force firefighters from the Department of Public Works and nearby Sather Air Base.

“We took the fire apprentice course from the U.S. Air Force and adapted it to the way Iraqi firefighters operate here and then had it translated into Arabic,” said Partido, an El Paso, Texas native.

The course consists of six training blocks that cover various areas including medical issues, basic fire principles, fire control, hazardous materials, structural training and aircraft firefighting.

“We took them through a structural trainer that is a brand new state of the art propane driven trainer,” said Partido. “We gave them the baseline knowledge of being able to enter a facility safely, extinguish a fire and operate on a fire and emergency scene.”

“Since the MoI and MoD will often have to work together to fight fires, it’s best for them to receive the same level of training so they'll be able to accomplish this more easily,” said Major Roney.

The class brought together an eclectic mix of firefighters with different levels of firefighting experience. The experience levels ranged from those with no firefighting experience at all to veterans with 20 years experience.

Colonel Juher Jumhor Al Azawi, director general of the Training Academy, has been a firefighter for the last four years. He said the class was a good refresher.

“I’ve had rescue and firefighting training before but this class offered a lot of new information,” he said. “I never worked with airbags before this.”

1st Lt Ra’ed Hussein Alwan, is a 16-year Iraqi air force veteran. He previously served as a mechanic but transferred to firefighting after the war started in 2003.

“I chose to be a firefighter because it’s a humanitarian thing, just like doctors helping sick kids,” he said. “Even if I’m on vacation, I can use my skills to help with car accidents, volunteer at hospitals, or put out neighbors fires.”

Upon graduating in early January the firefighters will return to stations throughout Iraq to put their newly sharpened skills to use.

“We started with the basics and worked our way to the more advanced techniques,” said Sergeant Partido. “It’s amazing to see how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time. I think they’re going to do excellent.”


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