By Spc. Alun Thomas, 1st ACB PAO, 1st Cav. Div., MND-BJuly 20, 2009
TAJI, Iraq - Fire trucks and emergency services roared onto the airfield, sirens blaring, followed by the rapid entrance of fully suited firefighters, hoses in hand, ready to extinguish the flames rising from a blazing CH-47F Chinook helicopter at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad.
It was only a practice exercise, but for the Camp Taji fire department it was necessary training in the event a real life emergency should occur involving a Chinook or other aircraft.
The firefighters worked alongside members of 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, July 17, at Taji airfield, to complete certification training on familiarization with shutting down aircraft in order to correctly put out a fire.
The firefighters need to know exactly how to shut down the Chinook before fighting a fire, as lives may depend on it, said Sgt. 1st Class Danny Hill, from Choctaw, Okla., company standards instructor, Company B, 2nd Bn., 227th Avn. Regt., 1st ACB.
"They need to know where the personnel will be located in the aircraft if it (a fire) does happen," said Hill, who instructed the firefighters. "They must know how they are seat belted in and where to point the fire hoses."
Hill said the firefighters must also know how to get in and out of the aircraft and correctly shut it down - making the training essential.
"Some of them may know how to do this but when they have a changeover (of new firefighters) they need to get recertified," Hill said, prior to the training. "Every six months they get refresher training. They called us and said they needed 30 people trained, so we're facilitating the training they requested."
The training involves a variety of shut down procedures, Hill said, which he guides the firefighters through before they perform a hands-on exercise.
"I'll instruct them how to open the doors and take them off and then go into how to shut down some of the systems on the outside of the aircraft," Hill said. "Then they'll do the same thing on the inside; learn how to get in and shut things down in there."
Hill said there are parts of the Chinook that the firefighters would not be able to spray during the exercise.
"We don't want to damage anything so I'll show them where the exhausts are so they know exactly where to put the water if there is a fire," Hill said. "It's not difficult training but for the newer firefighters it might take getting used to."
One of the newest firefighters at Camp Taji is Nicolae Boica, from Sacramento, Calif., who said the familiarization is crucial in his development as a firefighter at Camp Taji.
"I need to know exactly what's most important to get to on the helicopter and all the danger areas to avoid," Boica said. "You need to be aware all the time. We have to know what to turn off and where the fuel lines are."
Boica said his role is to make sure the path is always clear for the rescue team.
"I make sure they aren't getting burned and always have a path to get through so they can save people on the helicopter," Boica said.
Boica and his fellow firefighters executed the run through, turning everything off in the correct order and evacuated Hill, acting as a victim, from the pilot's seat - paving the way for the hoses to be used.
"The exercise went very well and this was the first time we ... got to train on a CH-47 which was very informational for our new guys," said Anthony Johnson, from Ocean Springs, Miss., captain, Taji fire dept. "We are constantly trying to train with the military on their aircraft to make sure we are readily accessible for them."
The familiarization was the most important aspect of the training, Johnson said, because the fire crew had rarely experienced a Chinook before.
"It's not the main one flying out here so it really helped a lot," Johnson said.
Johnson could not have been happier with the final exercise, which showed his team is ready in case a real fire breaks out on the Chinook.
"It went flawlessly and was our whole purpose for being out here," Johnson said. "In case of an emergency we can do it by muscle memory and not have to second guess ourselves."
"It was a great exercise," he said.