KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - A crowd of frightened people scamper franticly out of a burning building as they rush toward safety. The crowd stands helpless, looking as all their personal belongings go up in flames.

Suddenly they hear the screaming echoes of sirens and to their surprise a group of Soldiers dressed in firefighting gear arrives. The Soldiers then run into the burning building with the intent to save lives and protect personal property. This is just an example of what an Army firefighter risks to serve his country.

"I think it takes a special person to run into the fire when everyone else is running out," said Pfc. Michael Hamilton, a firefighter with the 23rd Ordnance Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and a native of Pleasanton, Calif.

The firefighters of the 23rd Ord. Co. conducted aircraft burn training with the 886th Civil Engineer Squadron March 23 in front of a special guest on Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany.

Maj. Gen. Patricia E. McQuistion, the commanding general of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, received a tour of the training area and observed the Soldiers and airmen extinguish a fire set to a mock aircraft.

McQuistion also tried on the firefighter gear, used the fire hose and received a demonstration on the use of the "jaws of life," which is used for vehicle extraction as well as rescues from small spaces.

After watching how the Soldiers and airmen train and learning about the various tools the firefighters use, McQuistion expressed to the Soldiers and airmen how impressed she was with the group and its leaders.

In order to become efficient with their job, the Soldiers and airmen train constantly to improve their skills and responsiveness.

Upon entering the military, Army firefighters attend 13 weeks of Advanced Individual Training in which they learn first aid procedures, rescue procedures and firefighting equipment operation.

In addition, the Soldiers rotate monthly from Grafenwoehr to Ramstein to execute detailed training exercises to become more proficient in their field.

"With the training, I feel like I can save lives," said Spc. Stephen Virgil, a firefighter with the 23rd Ord. Co.

The Soldiers also work with civilian firefighters, who help the Soldiers train and sharpen their skill in the areas of inspecting buildings and equipment for fire hazards and responding to emergency situations.

"I've been a firefighter for 40 years. I like to help people and train other firefighters," said Deiter Bestyak, the Kaiserslautern Military Community fire department training officer and a native of Mackenbach, Germany.

"There is a lot of hard work that goes into being a firefighter," said Sgt. Cleveland Brasiendton, a firefighter with the 23rd Ord. Co. and a native of Sumter, S.C.

In addition to firefighting training that focuses on saving lives and protecting equipment, the Army firefighters also go out to the communities and talk with people, especially children, about fire safety.

"We go to schools and teach fire prevention. We get involved with kids and teach them different techniques to get them out of a house fire," said Brasiendton.

Prior to the military, Brasiendton volunteered at the fire department in his hometown after 9/11.

As a result, it became a full-time job. According to Brasiendton, he saw the effect firefighting had on the community and decided to join the Army as a firefighter.

"Firefighting is my life. I wouldn't want to do anything else," said Brasiendton.

"I love the aspect of saving lives and protecting property," said Hamilton.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16