By Spc. Michael Pfaff, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky Army National GuardAugust 11, 2009
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Thick black smoke billowed from the fire. Water didn't help. It actually fed the inferno. The more water the Soldier sprayed, the higher the flames licked toward the sky. It was a grease fire.
Spc. William B. Clapp, a driver with the 66th Transportation Company, and 24 other Soldiers learned this important lesson at the Joint Multinational Training Command's (JMTC) Combined Arms Training Center's (CATC) Hazardous Material 11 Course: it takes a fire extinguisher to put out a grease fire.
"It was very hot in there," Clapp said. "This training was excellent and it's definitely helped me and other Soldiers learn how to put out a fire of that magnitude."
The hazardous material course is one of three courses offered by the CATC to train drivers, Soldiers and Army civilians who transport bulk hazardous cargo on all the safety information and skills necessary to operate under the rules and regulations inside the U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) Command.
"The most important thing is safety," said Sgt. 1st Class Zachary W. Williams, the hazardous material course manager here. "A lot of changes take place as you transition from the United States to Europe, and we want to make sure anyone transporting this cargo is more than qualified.
"When the Germans see our trucks driving through their small villages, we want them to know what we're transporting and that it is safe in the hands of our drivers," he said.
On July 23, Soldiers learned how to extinguish a variety of flames at the Vilseck Fire Station. Their German training instructor, Otto Sperber, a fire inspector at the station, explained that the hands on experience is crucial for Soldiers to be able to respond if something ever did happen on their truck.
"This isn't like in the movies," he said.
"I want the Soldiers to feel the heat on them. They need to know how dangerous a fire is. And, this hands on training helps them become comfortable operating the equipment in the face of such a dangerous situation," he said.
Sperber and his assistants set fuel ablaze inside of a concrete fire pit. Each fire quickly transformed into a cloud of white smoke left behind from the fire extinguisher as Soldiers took turns putting out the raging six-foot tall fire.
Williams said that working hand-in-hand with the Germans and other countries here helps everyone involved.
"We train together because we're going to be interacting with each other when we're out transporting this cargo," Williams said. "Whether it is the German fire department or Polizei, we rely on each other."
After Soldiers finish these courses, they are certified to transport hazardous material, but they are also qualified to make sure that they are keeping European communities and the people that live there safe.