FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 10, 2023) -- Fort Drum firefighters were on alert and emergency vehicles surrounded the area Jan. 10 as shivering Soldiers emerged from the icy waters of Remington Pond.
This wasn’t the scene of an accident, but a portion of the 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade’s Sustainer of the Quarter competition, and the second year that Fire and Emergency Services personnel supported the cold-water immersion training.
“Basically, we got our saws out to give them with a decent hole in the ice for the training and then provided the safety personnel necessary for this type of event,” said Fort Drum Assistant Fire Chief Randy Ketcham.
While the firefighters donned waterproof suits that keep the body warm and buoyant, the Soldiers wore their everyday uniform to tackle the training.
“Once submerged, your body doesn’t behave the way you’d think it’s going to in the cold water,” Ketcham said. “So it’s good to have experienced, trained personnel in there, who can prevent someone from going under the ice if something goes wrong.”
At times, Firefighters William Kalin and Derrick Kolb got a face full of freezing-cold water as Soldiers kicked their way out back onto the ice.
“The training is about learning how to get yourself out of the water if you were to fall through ice,” Ketcham said. “There are certain techniques they can use to get themselves up and over. But if they can’t, our firefighters will give them a helping hand.”
Before the end of the month, firefighters will be back in the water to conduct their annual ice rescue training certification.
“It’s a two-day class with the New York State Office of Fire Prevention, and we’ll get around 25 of our guys newly certified as an ice rescue technician,” Ketcham said. “There a need for this kind of training, given the climate and conditions in this area, so we try to stay current and keep our skills sharp.”
Ketcham said that the team was proud to support 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers in their training.
“Honestly, that’s what we’re here for – to support Fort Drum and its mission, and the Soldiers are the mission,” he said. “And many of our firefighters have prior service in the military, so our being out here gives us an opportunity to interact with Soldiers and let them know we are here to support them.”
Kalin is a 20-year Army veteran who served with 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, and 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment.
“Having served with the 10th Mountain Division, being a firefighter here at Fort Drum is just a continuation of my service to the unit and my country,” he said. “I would equate being a firefighter to the civilian equivalent of an infantryman, as far the camaraderie and brotherhood goes.”