WIESBADEN, Germany – Partnership and cooperation, and maybe a bit of international camaraderie, were the talk of the day during this year’s First Responders Day hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden's Directorate of Emergency services held in the Aukumm Village community housing area, Aug. 17.
Threatening skies and scattered sprinkles of rain could not damper the excitement as the 3rd annual First Responders Day kicked off with a parade through Aukumm village.
With roaring engines and blaring distress signals, the parade meandered through the housing area to the delight of kids who covered their ears against the din of sirens, when not scrambling for candy thrown from wheeled emergency vehicles, and even a boat.
Garrison Wiesbaden and the city of Wiesbaden have a close-knit relationship based on partnership and cooperation that goes back decades. That connection was easy to see as more than 100 volunteers across 19 separate fire, emergency service and polizei agencies were on hand.
“This is a great opportunity for us to highlight the partnership within the community. The children and family members -- they all come out here, they participate and they see first responders on the German side and the American side working together to keep the community safe, which I think is an incredibly important message to send out there,” said Garrison Command Sgt. Major Richard Russell.
That association and teamwork is critical to the continued success of the garrison's emergency services, especially as they lean and work together with local partners during incident situations, in and outside the garrison's fence line.
Russell went on to say that one of the command's top priorities is protecting the community, which takes intentional cooperation between German and American emergency service agencies.
“Partnership and our devotion to duty to make sure this community is safe -- we could not do that alone. We couldn’t do that without host-nation support, both on the fire side and also on the polizei side," said Russell.
Sven Janneck, chief of event security and the host-nation liaison officer for the Wiesbaden Department of Emergency services, also noted, "It is a key mission of local emergency response teams “to provide the best quality of support for the residents on the garrison side as well as the German side."
In a crisis, enlisting help from nearby host-nation emergency service departments – could be the difference between life and death. Currently, it is estimated that the response time to Aukumm Village from Clay Kaserne is seven minutes. In an emergency when seconds matter, getting first responders on site fast can save lives and, often times, those first to the scene are from a local partner agency.
“The cooperation has been exceptionally good. Whenever there is an incident we help out each other," said Janneck, who began his career 24 years ago as an entry-level firefighter, before rising to battalion chief and into his current role with the city of Wiesbaden.
First responder appreciation events are held for several reasons – they allow first responders the chance to thank the community for their support, while also providing an opportunity to have fun and to see – up close – what special equipment, techniques and procedures may be implement when emergency services are called upon.
One of those pieces of special equipment was on full display during a live demonstration. Local Wiesbaden fire fighters wielding the Jaws of Life with adept precision were able to remove the doors and roof of a “crashed car” to transform the once brand-new sedan, into a lowly broken convertible.
Many in the community feel incredibly thankful and safe knowing that local German first responders are able to assist and respond rapidly in a time of need.
For one local resident watching the parade with her son, that moment came soon after her family’s arrival to Germany and getting settled in their third-floor apartment in the Aukumm Village housing area.
“Thankfully not an emergency, but our fire alarm went off and we had to call the German fire department to come. They were here very quick and were helpful. I think (this event) is great for all of us to build relations. We are new here so this kind of helps us to feel welcome here,” said Megan Lem resident of Aukumm Village.
Lem’s son Colton, a rising second grader, gave his approval between bites of candy, “I liked all the trucks. I want to be a police officer, something Army-ish.”