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Afghan Air Corps Graduates First Class of Firefighters

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Douglas Mappin
Special to American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 10, 2008 – After four months of class work and countless hands-on exercises putting out various types of fires and practicing lifesaving techniques, 11 members of the Afghan National Army Air Corps recently became the first graduates of the Air Corps Firefighting School.

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U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Marascia pins a firefighting badge on 48-year-old Razzuddin at the graduation ceremony of the first Afghan National Army Air Corps firefighting class, May 29, 2008. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Douglas Mappin, Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“Today is a very big day for the air corps,” U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jay Lindell, Combined Air Power Transition Force commander, said at the graduation ceremony. “You are your country’s future.”

Lindell said the increased attention given to the firefighters program will help the Afghans become more responsible for their own safety and security.

“You are a significant part of rebuilding your country,” he said. “In a bigger sense, you are all about the security of Afghanistan and about building a free democratic country.”

Over the past four months, Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Marascia, a firefighting instructor from Langley Air Force Base, Va., built a rapport with his students. Even with the language barrier, Marascia said, he and his students soon formed a bond like brothers.

“We’ve grown together as firefighters,” Marascia told the students. “We firefighters are brothers. We know no boundaries of nationalities or race. We are sworn to protect lives, and I am proud to call you my brothers.”

Marascia’s students’ backgrounds ranged from farmers and students to former soldiers of the Afghan National Army.

For 63-year-old Basir -- some Afghans go by only one name -- this day was a matter of pride and love for his people and country. He said being a fireman is all about serving his people.

“Before, I was a driver and had only a third-grade education,” Basir said. “I have always wanted to be a firefighter. I want to protect my people and my family.”

Razzuddin, 48, another Afghan army veteran, was assigned as the class’s fire chief and has a long history of serving his country.

“After serving my country for 23 years, I decided I wanted to be a firefighter. They are the rescuers of the people,” Razzuddin said. “I want to be an example to my people. This is an important job. I hope that others will follow in our footsteps. I am even encouraging my 19-year old son, Ekrammuddin, to be a firefighter.”

Initially, the new firefighters will be assigned to firefighting units around Kabul. Later in the year, this group will be the first firefighters assigned to the air corps’ new cantonment scheduled to open in October on the north side of Kabul International Airport.

With 20 new self-contained breathing apparatuses, 60 masks, firefighting suits, and other pieces of donated equipment from the United States, Denmark, Switzerland and Ukraine arriving just in time for the next session of classes, the equipment will help the firefighting program expand.

“We have our instructor to thank. Mike was compassionate and shared his experience as a firefighter. He was a good teacher,” Basir said. “Because of him, we are ready to respond.”

(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Douglas Mappin serves in the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs Office.)

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Related Sites:
Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan
Combined Joint Task Force 101

Click photo for screen-resolution imageSix-year-old Nazir displays the certificate of his father Basir, who graduated May 29, 2008, from the first Afghan National Army Air Corps firefighting course. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Douglas Mappin, Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan   
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