Kyrgyzstan, American firemen train together
Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Connie Bias
Editorís note: There are two people in the following story deployed from MacDill.
MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan - Sirens and speeding fire trucks made the flightline resemble a disaster area Tuesday morning. Crawling with firefighters carting ladders and hoses, the offended KC-135 Stratotanker looked to any onlooker like a crisis hub.
Indeed, that was the scenario. American and Kyrgyz firemen held a joint-force fire drill, designed to enhance working relations between the two fire stations by exposing shortcomings and successes of current joint emergency response capabilities. Because the Kyrgyz firefighters work in four shifts -versus the two shifts in the American station - the departments held four drills this week to ensure full participation.
Tuesday's re-supply drill focused on the ability of Kyrgyz fire trucks to augment water to American trucks. "We need copious amounts of water, and we need the Kyrgyz for that," explained Tech. Sgt. Charles Morris, assistant operations chief (deployed from MacDill.) He said the departments would like to hook Kyrgyz hoses to American trucks, allowing twice as much water spray at one time. However, because the Kygyz use the metric system, whereas American equipment is measured in inches, the hose-to-truck connections don't match. This problem was identified during the drill, and sums up the purpose of monthly exercises - to identify, fix and move beyond roadblocks.
"This is definitely a very good exercise for Manas and the Americans," said Alexander Podkopayev, translator for the American fire department. "It builds relationships and a good working environment, so we know what kind of help we can expect from and give to each other."
The reciprocal help should improve drastically during AEF 5/6. The mutual aid agreement between the two fire departments is already strong, according to Sergeant Morris, but this rotation of exercises is bringing the joint cooperation to a new level. In fact, Tuesday's exercise allowed Kyrgyz firemen to board and view the KC-135 for the first time. With a one-to-one escort ratio, the Kyrgyz firemen were finally able to see all aspects of the aircraft they could potentially help save one day.
"Eventually, we should be using their planes for exercises too," said Sergeant Morris. "If their plane should go down, we would augment them, and visa-versa."
The end goal is to work out enough kinks to perform a full international fire drill - fire trucks and hoses hooked together, supplies coming from anywhere needed and firemen working side-by-side.
"This is all a work in progress," commented Sergeant Morris, saying everything won't get done in this rotation. However, the profit passed onto the next AEF will be substantial.
"This rotation is taking care of very important aspects of joint exercises," agreed Mr. Podkopayev. "I definitely want to thank the fire chief and assistant chief for providing this great benefit to the fire departments."