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Airmen Teach Iraqis Firefighting Skills, Help Kids

By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2009 – An Air Force firefighting squadron is making a big difference in Iraq by training firefighters and helping local children.

The 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Protection Flight, a 40-man team of firefighters who provides fire response and airfield operations to Ali Base, Iraq, are training Iraqi firefighters in lifesaving and firefighting skills.

The team provides fire response for airfield operations and all coalition forces assigned to the base, about 13,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, said Air Force Master Sgt. Charles M. Harrison, the flight’s operations chief.

“The team responds to everything on the base from electrical fires to medical emergencies and emergency response outside the wire as well,” Harrison said yesterday during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

One of the team’s major initiatives is training Iraqi firefighters in a six-week course of academic and live-fire training. The course teaches basic skills such as rescue, ropes and knots, CPR, first aid, first responder, and other life-saving techniques.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan J. Glosson, assistant operations chief of operations, said the Iraqi firemen have very limited resources and face the same challenges of other firefighters.

The training includes live-fire training in which vehicle structures and mock buildings are set on fire for the Iraqi trainees to extinguish. The airmen also address issues specific to Iraqi firefighters. A major issue in the area is drowning, Harrison said, and the Iraqi firefighters wanted to know the best knots to create and ropes to use to pull victims out of the Euphrates River.

"It was amazing to sit back and watch these guys and the smiles on their faces and the high fives,” Glosson said. “That's success right there."

When the airmen are not training Iraqi firefighters, they serve in the community as part of Operation Iraqi Child, a group that distributes school supplies, clothes and sports equipment donated by U.S. groups and airmen’s families to local youth.

“The whole base comes together and goes into a big tent with supplies,” Harrison said. “Once they are packaged, they are given out to children in need. It allows us to give back to the community we work.”

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)

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