DART team trains for worst, hopes for best with fire fighting scenarios
July 1, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - A downed aircraft is a worst-case scenario in an aviation unit. Having a well-trained team on standby is a vital piece to this unwanted puzzle.
A downed aircraft recovery team, or DART team, is comprised of Soldiers who do a variety of jobs, including mechanical and electrical repair.
The team also has special equipment at their disposal: tools to cut the aircraft open and safely remove crew members, fire suppression equipment and a slew of tools to repair the aircraft.
Staying well trained on equipment to help prevent injury to the crews and damage to the aircraft is a high priority for the DART team, made up of Soldiers from 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad.
"What we are learning to do is use our new Mckaw packs; they are a new fire fighting device we got with a new type of foam," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Vann, from San Antonio, a DART noncommissioned officer in charge in Company B, 615th ASB, 1st ACB. "They are a little heavy, but they actually work quiet well; we are very impressed with them."
Knowing nothing about the packs, the DART Soldiers went through training about the use of the pack and the chemicals contained within, said Vann.
"We came out to the training area and actually lit some stuff on fire with the assistance of the fire department, giving us a chance to use the packs," he said.
Spending 13 years in the Navy dealing with aircraft fires, Ron Bailey, the fire prevention officer for Fire Department 1, Camp Taji, has experience with fire suppression equipment and hazardous situations.
"This training gives the Soldiers a realistic view on the heat coming off of a fire that large," said Bailey. "When you are in a real situation, the adrenaline gets going and some people want to rush in, so it's good for these guys to feel what it's like being 10 feet from a large fire."
Although he has years of experience, Bailey regards the outcome of an accident the best measure of success.
"I have had Soldiers come back up here and say 'this system has saved lives,'" said Bailey
"For as small as this system is, it works wonders and will work very well for what these guys have to do," said Bailey.
The fire training was being conducted on a broken-down vehicle with numerous barrels surrounding it. The fire department filled the barrels with fuel and set it ablaze, allowing the Soldiers to deal with a large object on fire - simulating a burning aircraft.
"We got right up in there and felt the heat; it was very realistic. It was the best we could do without having an actual aircraft to use," said Vann. "The confidence in the equipment is what matters the most - the fact that we know the equipment works and we are not lugging around this thing for no reason."
"I was impressed how little of the chemical foam it took to put out a fuel fire - a couple of quick blasts and a barrel was put out," added Vann.
The DART Soldiers extinguished the blaze to gain experience in a skill they hope to never use during their deployment.