Army firefighters feel the heat at Golden Cargo
July 23, 2012
MCALESTER Okla. (July 23, 2012) -- The only thing that the Chief of Fire and Emergency at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, Don Capps, is more serious about than firefighting is training firefighters.
That's why when the 802nd Ordnance Company out of Gainesville, Ga., came here to McAlester Okla., as part of Operation Golden Cargo this July, Capps adopted their firefighters and put them through such rigorous training that some of the Soldiers said it was the best and toughest they have had since joining the Army.
Golden Cargo uses military servicemembers, working with civilians, to transport ammunition and ordnance to strategic locations across the western United States. This training keeps drivers' and ammo handlers' skills sharp for future deployments while accomplishing a necessary military mission. However, since fire and ammo don't mix, realistic firefighting training can often be difficult to set up.
"Fire fighters are assigned to an ordnance company," said Capps. "Most of them don't have a lot of chances for hands-on training. So when I hear that an ordnance company is coming, I go and grab their firefighters."
With its mobile command post, 100-foot ladder, onsite computer lab and Department of Defense certified instructors, MCAAP Fire Station is well suited to train Army firefighters.
"We offer full MOS training, all certified through DoD Academy," said Capps.
Capps said he likes to evaluate Reserve Soldiers before training begins.
"We try to find out what their background is and tailor the training to their specific skills," said Capps. "It could be an intensive refresher for some."
Others, he said, might be ready for live fire practical exercises in the onsite burn house. Capps said he knows they are ready to progress when, "They can start working as a team. That is very important to firefighting."
The 802nd firefighting team is excited about the training they are getting.
"It's really impressive," said squad leader and truck captain, Sgt. Calvin C. Williamson.
Generally, Capps has the Soldiers train on their own equipment so they can keep the training as realistic as possible. However, the well-equipped firehouse offers some unique training opportunities as well.
"We learned about ladders, how to operate ladders, how to run an aerial," said Spc. Jessica L. Davis of Norcross, Ga., referring to the 100-foot truck ladder used to fight tall building fires.
Spc. Christopher R. Kerr of Gainesville, Ga., who has been with the 802nd since 2008
said, "We've been learning so much from these guys. A lot of it is technique. You just pick up little things when you do it everyday like they do. Now they're passing it on to us."
Capps said his instructors enjoy training Reserve Soldiers because most of the instructors are Veterans. A Vietnam Veteran himself, Capps calls this current generation of Soldiers, "the sharpest, most well educated, and motivated," of the last 50 years.
Even after he and his crew donned up to 60 pounds of gear and oxygen equipment to wrestle a fire hose in 102-degree weather during ventilation training, Williamson said, "I wish I could extend this three weeks more."
Spc. Jeremy C. Muholland of Nashville Tenn., a junior firefighter since age 12, echoed the sentiment and said he loves the training.
With the training wrapping up soon, Williamson said he would take some of Capp's passion for training with him.
"I'm going to have to go back and do some research and see how we can pair up with our local fire station so we can jump right back into the routine and train with them."