By Master Sgt. Brad StaggsSeptember 19, 2019
MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. - The smoke is so thick that you, literally, cannot see your hand in front of your face. You're carrying 50 pounds of equipment which keeps you alive as you try to see through the plastic mask in front of your eyes, squinting to make out shapes.
After climbing two floors of steps dragging a charged hose, you aim and get ready to fire off a stream of water, when you hear behind you "ENDEX!"
That's the training life for the 719th, 819th, 919th, and 1019th Engineer, Detachments. The Indiana National Guard Firefighters spend long hours preparing for the worst and minutes of non-stop action performing their jobs.
"The hardest thing is to just keep doing it," says Spec. Eric Hole of the 919th. "It takes practice but you have to embrace the suck, dig down, and keep doing it."
Members of the 819th and 1019th spent their training time being evaluated by 1st Army (East) on their mission essential tasks, ensuring they were ready for whatever comes their way whether it be a fire call or full deployment. The 919th, according to Diaz, is a new unit waiting for their full complement of equipment, so they are still in the learning process.
Among the jobs the firefighters are evaluated on are what some would consider mundane tasks such as checking fire extinguishers and teaching non-firefighters about fire safety all the way up to structural firefighting and aircraft rescue and firefighting.
"All of my Soldiers rose to the task so we're all first-time goes on every single thing we did," Diaz said proudly.
For 1019th Station Chief Staff Sgt. Gordon Walker, the evaluation was important, but not so important that he would sacrifice safety.
"My job was to make sure that everybody got as much training as they can," Walker said. "And to make sure that my guys make it home safe. Every bit of training that they can get that is vital to their safety is what I want to give them."
The 819th and 1019th both received "T" ratings on their evaluations which means that they are ready for deployment and any emergency that may come their way. Currently, seven of the 31 firefighters work the job as civilians but all want to work in the industry.