Firefighters hone emergency response in downed aircraft drill

By Sean Kimmons, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMarch 11, 2024

U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters extinguish a mock fire on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. Firefighters also evacuated the aircrew to a nearby safe location and used radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower.
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters extinguish a mock fire on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. Firefighters also evacuated the aircrew to a nearby safe location and used radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters extinguish a mock fire on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. Firefighters also evacuated the aircrew to a nearby safe location and used radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower.
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters extinguish a mock fire on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. Firefighters also evacuated the aircrew to a nearby safe location and used radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters extinguish a mock fire on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. Firefighters also evacuated the aircrew to a nearby safe location and used radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower.
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters extinguish a mock fire on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. Firefighters also evacuated the aircrew to a nearby safe location and used radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan simulates an in-flight emergency and subsequent hard landing as part of an aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024.
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan simulates an in-flight emergency and subsequent hard landing as part of an aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – More than a dozen firefighters participated in a downed aircraft exercise here Thursday to test their response to an emergency at Kastner Airfield.

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, operated by two pilots and a crew chief from the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan, simulated an in-flight emergency and subsequent hard landing that left the aircrew injured.

“We, as the airfield management, have to test the airfield response for emergencies,” said Louis Browne, airfield operations and safety officer. “This gives us an opportunity to work those kinks out and make sure the communication is clear and also to check response times.”

U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters arrived at the scene within two minutes while using radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower.

Once on scene, firefighters began to spray the helicopter with hoses to extinguish a mock fire and then evacuated the aircrew to a nearby safe location to treat their injuries.

“The main thing was to test the communication,” Browne said, “… and we have to test it to make sure it's validated.”

Shinji Kajita, district fire chief, said the exercise was vital for his firefighters to conduct since they are responsible for the safety of aircrews as well as protecting aircraft from further damage.

"Hands-on training is very important,” he said. “These guys always train in the station like how to stop the [aircraft] engines … but they have to feel the actual aircraft.”

While the firefighters did well in the exercise, Kajita said, the realistic training still had some challenges, and his team will continue to push for improvement.

U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters treat an aircrew member during a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. The firefighters arrived at the scene within two minutes while using radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters treat an aircrew member during a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. The firefighters arrived at the scene within two minutes while using radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
A U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighter escorts one of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilots to safety during a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. The firefighters arrived at the scene within two minutes while using radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighter escorts one of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilots to safety during a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. The firefighters arrived at the scene within two minutes while using radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters participate in a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. The firefighters arrived at the scene within two minutes while using radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Garrison Japan firefighters participate in a downed aircraft exercise at Camp Zama, Japan, March 7, 2024. The firefighters arrived at the scene within two minutes while using radio communication to coordinate their efforts with the air traffic control tower. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole Shore, one of the Black Hawk pilots, appreciated the firefighters sharpening their skills and taking advantage of the real-world training.

As helicopters are complicated machines, Shore said it’s crucial for the firefighters to practice different scenarios to be able to safely operate around the aircraft.

“In an emergency you don't want to be trying to figure that out, learning about the aircraft in the heat of the moment,” he said.

“It [also] builds confidence in the aircrews,” he added about the training, “to know that the rescue services are proficient in the worst-case scenario.”

In future iterations, Browne said they plan to expand the scenario to include simulated injuries that would require an ambulance to respond to the airfield from an off-post site.

“That's something that really hasn't been tested yet,” he said. “We need to know how long an ambulance takes to get on base and are there any complications with them getting to the airfield?”

Depending on how well this can be accomplished may increase the likelihood of an injured crew member being medically evacuated and treated in a timely manner.

“You have what's called the ‘golden hour,’” Browne said. “You really need to get a patient to emergency care within that hour for their best chance of survival.”

Related links:

U.S. Army Garrison Japan news

USAG Japan official website