By Chicpaul Becerra, U.S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa Public AffairsJuly 14, 2008
POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii - No one knows about fires and emergencies better than the firefighters and emergency medical technicians here.The U.S. Army recently selected Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) Fire and Emergency Services as the Army Fire Department of the Year 2007 (small department category). "These firefighters are the best, and it's nice that (they) are recognized for the work that they do here," said Eric Moller, deputy fire chief and acting garrison fire chief, PTA Fire and Emergency Services. He said the fire department responded to 900 emergency calls last year and saved 38 lives. "PTA's Fire and Emergency Services personnel have been supporting PTA and the Big Island communities over the years, doing lots of EMS (emergency medical services) and assisting in car crashes," Moller said. "Our firefighters put a lot of effort and professionalism (in their job)." Steve Coloma, acting captain, PTA Fire and Emergency Services, amplified on the department's mission. "We do an array of fire and emergency operations - from structural fires and damages, crash fields, wildland fires, search and rescue missions, and emergency medical responses - with ambulances," Coloma said. PTA has 21 firefighters/emergency medical technicians who remain prepared for all types of responses on a daily basis. "Besides identifying daily tasks and assigned apparatus equipment, we also do a lot of mental preparations every day," Coloma said. "... We keep ourselves prepared by continuing to check our apparatus and equipment, and reviewing certain procedures based on our certification levels." Coloma also stressed physical fitness. "We do one-and-a-half hours to two hours of working out each day. We do wildland pack training, which consists of 45 minutes of activities with 45 pounds of gear on our backs." To receive the prestigious award, PTA's Fire and Emergency Services had to pass a rigorous Department of the Army-level selection board. The board was especially competitive as each of the nominations represented outstanding service and accomplishments, according to Maj. Gen. John MacDonald, deputy commanding general, Installation Management Command (IMCOM). The candidates who were selected will represent the Army before the Department of Defense (DoD) selection panel at the DoD Awards Banquet in August. Brig. Gen. Dennis Rogers, director of Operations and Facilities, IMCOM, had much praise for PTA Fire and Emergency Services in a letter addressed to Moller. "Your department's accomplishments ensure the type of service our Soldiers, civilians and their families deserve, and truly provide an organization for other Army Fire and Emergency Services departments to emulate," Rogers wrote. "The comprehensive and professional fire and emergency medical services you provide to the Army, Air Force and Marine live-fire training area on the Big Island of Hawaii is commendable. "Your department is truly top notch ... and is a key element in making (PTA) one of the Army's finest installations."