By Maj. Alan S. Brown, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. Public AffairsJune 1, 2010
COS GARRY OWEN, Iraq - Army firefighters from Fort Carson, Colo., are providing for the safety of their fellow Soldiers at Contingency Operating Site Garry Owen, in Maysan Province.
The team, from the 60th Ordnance Company, 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, is attached to the task force led by 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
These 10 Soldiers are the first team of Army firefighters ever to protect COS Garry Owen, providing emergency response to the adjacent Iraqi army installation and the nearby airstrip.
The team, comprised mostly of junior enlisted Soldiers, includes Spc. Clinton Dollahon, of Grassvalley, Calif.; Spc. Christopher Henderson, of Marshalltown, Iowa; Spc. Joseph Holliway, of Kansas City, Mo.; and Pfc. Chase Snodgrass, of Spencer, Ind. Other members of the team include Spc. Edgar Acena, of Long Beach, Calif.; Spc. Daniel Fuller, of Flint, Mich.; Spc. Benjamin Haley, of El Paso, Texas; Staff Sgt. Brandon Harris, of Memphis, Tenn.; Spc. David Perez, of Lawrence, Mass.; and Spc. Percy Watkins, of Round Rock, Texas.
They live and work in a fire station they built themselves from the ground up with 10,000 square feet of raw lumber, determination and sweat.
"We were the first fire department on post. We actually had to build a decent enough structure to house a common area and communication area," Henderson said.
While there's no pole to slide down or firehouse dog, the station provides comfortable living quarters, a common area, space for their workout equipment and a covered parking area for their two fire engines.
"There are a lot of things that need to be done to start a fire station, so you can't just jump right in and say you are a working fire department," Henderson said. "We can skip some of this setting up, but if we are to be a Fort Carson-worthy firefighter, we know that there are two ways of doing things, the right way, and the RIGHT way."
When they receive a call, the team rolls in two identical Tactical Fire Fighting Trucks built on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck frame, a common heavy duty vehicle used throughout the Army for a variety of purposes.
The trucks are custom-built by both Oshkosh Defense and their subsidiary, Pierce Manufacturing. The pumping assembly is made specifically for the Army by Darley and designed to provide over 1,000 pounds-per-square-inch of water pressure.
The truck can be maintained by a minimal crew of two mechanics, one for the vehicle and one for the pumping system, Henderson said.
While the crew has not yet been called to respond to a fire emergency, they are serious about keeping up with their training and being always ready. Henderson credits the lack of fires to the excellent precautionary measures taken by the unit-level fire marshals on the base.
Recently, they've been called to use their powerful water spray to clean the base's two medical evacuation UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. They've also fired-up their rescue chain saws to provide demolition assistance for some old structures on the installation.
The group unanimously agreed that providing for the safety of their fellow Soldiers is their number-one priority.
"We don't take shortcuts, and we don't do anything that will compromise this mission or the safety of our fellow Soldiers," Henderson said, to the affirming nods of the rest of his team.
"Our job is protecting the fighting force, and we plan on doing everything possible to ensure that the Soldiers on post have a competent and ready fire department."
The Soldiers all attended their initial entry training at the Department of Defense Fire Fighting Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, alongside prospective firefighters from all branches of service.
The unit has been deployed since November 2009, first to Contingency Operating Base Adder before moving to COS Garry Owen in February 2010. They are slated to return to Fort Carson in November 2010, where they will continue training and working alongside the Fort Carson Fire Department.