By Sgt. 1st Class Michel SauretJanuary 28, 2015
DARIEN, Ill. - They fight against huge flames consuming buildings, aircrafts or even entire installations.
And yet, Army Reserve firefighter detachments are only seven-Soldiers strong.
"We are 911 for Soldiers (who) are deployed," said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Timm, a detachment commander for the 237th Engineer Detachment (Firefighting Team).
Army firefighters use gear regulated by the strictest national standards, but their needs are often neglected because their units are so small.
Lack of funding and lack of attention left behind rescue vehicles in serious need of repair.
Somebody needed to come to their rescue, for once, and they got it.
"My motivation is to make the firefighters within the Army Reserve ... deployable and able to train in a safe manner ... We're actually going into real fires to train, and if your gear or your equipment fails, you're in a live training environment," said Timm.
Even though Timm commands one firefighting team, he's also in a position to impact the entire firefighting force. He serves as the logistics specialist for the "G4 Fusion Cell" at the 416th Theater Engineer Command (TEC). The team is responsible for equipping more than 300 engineer units across the Army Reserve.
"I love the ability to affect change on a scale like we do. To be able to upgrade the force with something they've never had before or support units that are deploying," said Timm.
Together with his boss, Timm developed a program aimed to inspect, service and recertify all fire fighting detachments across his command, and beyond. The program is called the Military Apparatus Service Program (MFASP).
Already, they've completed inspections for 42 firefighter detachments. Those units belong to the 416th and 412th TECs. Next, they'll service and certify a total of 84 vehicles for those units. These include the M1142 Tactical Fire Fighting Truck and the M1158 High Mobility Water Tender. Eventually, Timm hopes to expand the program to include 14 more Army Reserve firefighter units outside of the two TECs.
Army Reserve firefighters could also fight flames both abroad and on the home front. Thanks to the 2012 changes to title 10, United States Code, they might mobilize to save their own neighbors on U.S. soil.
"In addition to making ourselves more relevant, more useful to the command ... we can use our expertise and be deployed stateside to help in natural disasters," said Timm, who used to be a volunteer firefighter in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.
"To be able to be that person, that crew, able to assist ... on what may be the worst day of their life ... is, I think, a big responsibility," said Timm.
The Air Force and National Guard have also shown interest in this certification program because there's nothing like across the Department of Defense.
Timm's boss calls these detachments "IBUs" - or Itty Bitty Units - but their complex needs go beyond their small size.
"All of our equipment is commercial off the shelf, very civilian-oriented in both equipment and training, so it's outside of the normal Army system," said Timm.
All military firefighting units are regulated by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. Army maintenance shops and mechanics are not trained in those standards. So, even though all Army trucks are the same from the chassis down, everything above these vehicles' frames is specific to fighting flames.
"Everything from the pump package up ... requires an emergency vehicle technician," said Timm.
This includes water tanks, turrets, suction lines, piping, pressure valves, control levers ... the list goes on.
So the G4 Fusion Cell partnered with Darley Defense, a private manufacturing company that specializes in fire engine pumps and firefighting equipment. Together, they wrote the program. They also contracted two fire engine service facilities to handle the workload: one outside of Chicago and the other one in Oregon to take in vehicles from the west coast.
After last year's inspection, they estimated maintenance will cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 per truck. But this will cover the entire vehicle, from roof to rubber. Each maintenance shop will service six vehicles at a time, and will complete the project within 12 months.
NFPA standards require fire trucks to get recertified each year. Timm estimates the maintenance cost per vehicle will drop significantly in the future. That's because this program is servicing trucks that have been neglected for several years before now. Next year, these same vehicles will be in better shape. Ultimately, the goal is to allow every Army firefighter to have trust in their equipment to get the job done.
"That's really important because I don't know of any firefighter out there that wouldn't want to do their job. There's a mentality in the firefighting service that you want to be there to help," said Timm. "This is just another way that we can help ... It's just that we have to rely on that equipment to be there and ready at a moment's notice."