JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Almost 50 firefighters with the 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron and five 68th Airlift Squadron Reserve Citizen Airmen practiced emergency procedures for an aircraft fire and aircrew evacuation during two total force training sessions here Nov. 15 and Nov. 18.
In a simulated scenario, firefighters responded to the 433rd Airlift Wing parking ramp to extinguish a fire at a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft’s main landing gear. Simultaneously, they entered the aircraft to assist trapped crewmembers with their egress, extinguished flames inside the cargo compartment and searched for additional personnel.
The firefighters have multiple objectives in these events. They assess the situation, search the aircraft for and assist people with evacuation and work to save the aircraft.
The crew chief for one of the response vehicles, Samario Davis, 902nd CES lead firefighter and former Air Force firefighter with 26 years experience, said they approach and engage the situation carefully in order to meet their first objective.
“Our objective is to extinguish exterior fires, then when it is safe to enter the aircraft, we shut down the engines and look for victims while extinguishing fires along the way,” he said. “Our main priority is to put the fire out. Once we get rid of that hazard, it’s one fewer thing to worry about when searching for and removing victims.”
Davis said the firefighters have monthly training events, which periodically include working with the C-5M, the Air Force’s largest aircraft.
One of the exercise planners, Lt. Col. Marc D. Mulkey, 433rd AW chief of safety, said the significance of these joint training scenarios is to familiarize everyone with the process.
“The importance of having the fire department train with our assets is it gives them hands-on training to get familiar with the aircraft and the aircrews, in the event of a rescue-type situation,” he said.
This training allows the firefighters and crews to practice and refine their skills.
“When this many personnel and trucks surround the aircraft with the goal of saving lives and the aircraft, it takes a lot of orchestration,” said on-scene incident commander, Cliff D. Martinez, 902nd CES Lackland A-shift on-duty assistant fire chief. “We have to train until we are a well-oiled machine. Everyone needs to know expectations, perform according to protocols and be able to adapt when something out of the ordinary occurs.”
Martinez said the exercise provided familiarization for their new personnel as well as refresher training for the more seasoned firefighters.
“We have many duties here at Lackland, with a heavy aircraft rescue and firefighting mission with the C-5s and F-16s, as well as the transient aircraft here and at Port San Antonio,” he said. “It is very important that we train on a regular basis, so it becomes second nature.”
According to Martinez, in addition to airfield emergencies, structural firefighting and technical, water, vehicle and machine rescue are among the many skills firefighters need to know how to perform at this type of installation.
Mulkey said in addition to training for the crews, the exercise also strengthened ties between organizations with different missions.
“We are a part of Joint Base San Antonio and this training is a win-win,” said Mulkey. “While the fire department is getting their valuable egress training, our crews are also getting trained on egress procedures.”