Fort Riley garrison commander tries hand at firefighting
Garrison Commander Col. William Clark, center, receives instruction from FES Capt. Wes Hill, right, before climbing the 105-foot aerial ladder Oct. 28 during a training exercise at the fire department's training grounds at Camp Funston.

FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Garrison Commander Col. William Clark traded in his ACUs and combat boots for bunker gear and an air tank Oct. 28 when he trained with Fort Riley Fire and Emergency Services firefighters.

Clark participated in the training to gain a better understanding and feel for what firefighters do in the community, he said.

"Today was just a way for me to come out, understand what they do and really understand the professionalism -- the competencies of our firemen here on the installation," Clark said.

During the training, Clark participated in six different scenarios, beginning with climbing to the top of the department's 105-foot aerial ladder at a 75-degree angle.

The second scenario was a search and rescue in the training tower, located at Camp Funston, which is designed to simulate the inside of a house or commercial property, where there is no light, and firefighters are required to crawl on their hands and knees, while maintaining situational awareness.

On the third scenario, Clark witnessed a fire from its initial start until the room was fully engulfed with intense heat and smoke. He then watched a team of firefighters attack and extinguish the fire.

During the fourth scenario, Clark boarded a fire truck with the ladder company as they returned to the scene to respond to a second floor fire with the report of people trapped inside.

Using hydraulic extrication equipment, commonly known as the "Jaws of Life," Clark assisted with a simulated vehicle accident to remove doors, take the roof off and roll the dash forward to easily remove those trapped inside the vehicle.

None of these scenarios were made easier for Clark, and the firefighters kept pushing him just like he was a new recruit, and the colonel hung right in there, never backing down, said Bryan Frayser, assistant chief of training, FES.

"They have a lot of different tactics, techniques and procedures that they utilize to keep our people safe, and as the garrison commander, I need to understand what they do in case there is an incident on the installation," Clark said.

Clark's participation in the training helped tie together another piece of the communication puzzle in the event an unfortunate emergency were to happen at Fort Riley, Frayser said.

"By already having the first-hand knowledge and understanding for what's going on in our world, Clark will be able to anticipate and react more quickly to our needs or requests," he said. "And, the great thing is, that ultimately the Soldiers, their Families and the civilians here at Fort Riley will benefit the most."

Clark described the training experience as amazing.

"We have some very confident and professional firefighters on the installation," he said. "We are in good hands here. You can see that in the way that they work cohesively as a team, they solve problems systematically, they identify what the problem is, find the tools to solve it, and they work together to solve that problem. That's exactly what you have to do in a challenging situation."

Following the exercise, those training with Clark presented him with a leather helmet, complete with his name and a badge number.

Clark thanked each of the firefighters present for what they do every day.

"It's unfortunate that most people don't understand the complexity -- and I didn't either until I came here today -- of their job and what they have to do to take care of us. They put their lives on the line every time that bell goes off," Clark said.

Page last updated Fri November 4th, 2011 at 15:52