By Spc. Charlene Apatang MendiolaApril 22, 2011
A distress call comes in through the radios of a helicopter on fire. Firefighters respond by placing a fire truck at a 90 degree angle away from the front of the aircraft. Using hand lines, a team creates an entry way towards the aircraft, while the other team secures the inside of the aircraft extracting an injured pilot. The casualty is taken to a triage area where medics treat him. Meanwhile, the firefighters perform a second check of the aircraft to ensure no other passengers or crew members are left behind or thrown out and to declare the aircraft safe.
U.S firefighters demonstrated this scenario as the Iraqi firefighters observed their performance.
Fire personnel from Baghdad International Airport, Sather Air Force Base, New Al-Muthana Air Base and the Iraqi Civilian Aviation Authority participated in a three-hour long aircraft familiarization and egress exercise on Sather Air Force Base, April 18.
This is the first time that the Iraqi and U.S. fire fighters gathered for a combined training exercise.
"This is one of the many historical events in Iraq as we shadow the advising, assisting and training roles," said Lt. Col. Steven Ballew a strategic plans and safety advisor with Iraq Training and Advisory Mission - Air.
Firefighters, crew members and translators divided into three separate teams prior to engaging in the familiarization process.
As key players to the exercise, it is imperative to have participants interact with each other said Wayne Morrow, Sally Port fire chief with Sather Air Force Base Fire Department. "Both parties need to know who they are and who they will be working with."
The training started as the helicopters landed on an open area of the flight line followed by the familiarization of three different aircrafts: the Utility Helicopter often referred to as UH-1 from the Iraqi Army Aviation Command 2nd Squadron, the Multirole Helicopter known as the MI-17 flown in by the IAAC 4th Squadron and a Black Hawk, UH-60, operated by the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade.
Performing aircraft familiarization is an important element for emergency-response teams. In the event of an emergency, team members are able to respond accordingly while understanding the systems and devices within an aircraft.
Crew chiefs and pilots of each aircraft took on the role as instructors as they briefed the teams about the basic elements of the specific aircraft as well as the placement of emergency equipment.
"Just like every other heavy equipment, there are many essential parts," Morrow said. "This is just a process for personnel to get the idea of what an aircraft looks like and how it operates."
The basics of doors and hatches, oxygen shut off buttons, recognizing aircraft hazard areas, proper procedures of pinning an aircraft, adjusting seats and isolating power were just a few training aspects throughout the familiarization process.
"This training will provide Iraqi fire fighters some basic-firefighting concepts, crew extractions, and response measures and capabilities," said Sheldon Longnecker Jr., theater fire chief, United States Forces - Iraq, Task Force Safety Actions for Fire and Electricity.
The second half of the training involved the aircraft-egress drill. The exercise conducted by U.S. firefighters demonstrated the importance of situational awareness. Crew-rescue teams are reminded to remain flexible when responding to emergencies as challenges of weather and terrain may exist.
"There were several objectives to this exercise," said Morrow, "including securing the crash site, properly positioning a vehicle, hose line deployments, proper advancement to the aircraft, shut-down procedures, crew egress and triage position."
Because there are many scenarios that could happen here, the ultimate goal is to train the Iraqis so they can be prepared to react and overcome any obstacles they may face, Longnecker said.
This is an ITAM-Air hosted event, Ballew said. Staff Maj. Gen. Anwer Ahmed made an official request to execute this training as an ongoing effort to advise, assist and train Iraqi partners toward self-reliance.
As Operation New Dawn approaches its mission deadline, the efforts of both U.S. and Iraqis are essential to the transition and drawdown process, he said. Although the presence of the U.S. will remain on Sather Air Force Base, this signifies future partnership with the Iraqi counterparts.
Planning efforts are in progress for future training with ITAM-Air and the fire departments.
"The air base here in Iraq is shared between the U.S. and the Iraqis," Morrow said. "Therefore working hand-in-hand is important because it will allow crash-rescue teams to respond and assist regardless of the borderline."