Island firefighters learn rescue skills in joint course

by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wilson, 36th Wing Public Affairs
Andersen Air Force Base

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam  -- Department of Defense firefighters on Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam joined with their island partners from the Guam Fire Department to develop the skills to perform high-risk rescues by participating in the DOD Rescue Technician course this month.

Thirteen military and civilian fire fighter students from Andersen, Naval Base Guam and the Guam Fire Department participated in the three week course taught by instructors from the 554th RED HORSE Squadron, said Stanley Torres, Andersen Fire and Emergency Services chief of training.

"This is higher echelon training," he said. "It's one of the hardest courses we have in the fire fighter community and there are usually students who have to washout due to the academic and physical requirements."

The 554th RHS instructors are firefighters assigned to the Silver Flag course at the Pacific Regional Training Center at Northwest Field. Silver Flag is a civil engineering course designed to use multiple Air Force specialties to operate from austere expeditionary environments.

"We teach at Silver Flag, but we also are a mobile training team where we teach this specific course to military members across the Pacific," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Milan, one of three RHS instructors teaching the course. "It's not a required course for firefighters so we focus primarily on training the best candidates possible (because of the difficulty and washout rates)."

The course features intensive classroom work on procedures for rescuing victims at elevated environments and in closed spaces, he said. Because of the highly specialized nature of the course, graduating fire fighters become instant assets to incident commanders responding to emergencies where a person could be injured or stranded at a hard to reach point.

Milan used construction workers as an example.

"We could have a guy working up on the tower get stranded and tangled up in a line," he said. "You need someone with the training to perform that kind of rescue." 

Having all of the firefighters on the island qualified on these difficult rescue techniques would be ideal, but it's not realistic due to training limitations, Torres said.

"We want all of our firefighters to get this training but it's so highly specialized and we can't teach it anywhere, we need skilled instructors," Torres said. "The best opportunity for them to get it is when they're young in their career."

Firefighters who complete the course bring first-hand knowledge and hands-on experience in the event of real-world operations and can provide on-scene commanders an invaluable resource, Torres said.

"When they come back to their station after completing the course and we respond to an incident in an elevated or confined space if someone is injured, our guys at the direction of the incident commander, are trained to do all of these skills," he said. "When the incident commander says 'let's get it done,' we get it done -- our job is to save lives."

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