Petroleum supply specialist course trains students to put down fires
September 27, 2012
FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 27, 2012) -- Pfc. Emily Bell said she never understood the true power of fire until she recently found herself standing before dancing flames burning at temperatures of 2,500 degrees and shooting to heights in excess of 15 feet.
"I was a little intimidated at first, walking up (to the platform) because I was afraid that it would get out of hand, I would fall back or something else would happen. I was nervous."
Bell is a student in the Quartermaster School's petroleum supply specialist course. The Victor Company, 262nd QM Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade Soldier and 90 or so of her classmates took brief turns Sept. 6, suppressing fuel fires during familiarization training at the Fire Pit Training Area located near the Petroleum and Water Department headquarters building.
Staff Sgt. Sherwin Jose, an instructor on-site for the training, said the firefighting block of instruction is designed to counteract some of the apprehension students like Bell might have about fires.
"The Soldiers are excited in seeing the fire because they are intimidated by it," said Jose, "and that's the main focus of the training -- to get that fear out to the point that they are able to deal with it and not lose their composure when they are attacking it."
The petroleum supply specialist course (military occupational specialty 92F) is an 11-week program of instruction. Fire training is conducted during the eighth week. Among the lessons included in the course of study are operating pumps, pipelines and tanker equipment, learning how to do it safely and learning what to do when there is an emergency.
During a recent firefighting training session, Soldiers were attentive and serious as they were briefed on the objectives. They later donned fire-protectant suits and took turns using a hose unit to suppress a liquid fuel fire using purple-k, or PKP, a dry-chemical fire suppression agent.
Students were afforded roughly two minutes with the hose, standing about 10-feet from the fire. A fellow student served to cushion the firefighter against the unit's powerful recoil and an instructor stood near them, directing the task.
Despite the brief time with the hose, Bell said the training was invaluable.
"I felt accomplished," said Bell, a Dallas native. "I felt like I was prepared and ready in case something should happen. It was at the very least a good taste of what to prepare for."
Jose said fuel fires are rare. He has come across only four in his 16-year career. Preparation was the determining factor in fighting each of them, he said.
"The key is that you need to be prepared and not too intimidated to react," said Jose. "We need to prepare these Soldiers to ultimately handle fires when they ignite. Fires always occur by surprise."
After the training, the students seemed more relaxed and their body language spoke of more self-assurance. Bell said no one wants to find himself in a fire, but the knowledge to fight it "is something good to have in your back pocket in case of a worst-case scenario -- always hope for the best but prepare for the worst."
About 130 Soldiers and Marines undergo the firefighting training each month, said Staff Sgt. Jamorion Stanford, a 92F instructor.