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The heat is on...Afghan style

By Staff Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay , 438th Air Expeditionary Wing

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KABUL AIR BASE, Afghanistan (January 18, 2012) — As alarms sound and flames roar from the burning building, they run in while others run out.

For years and years, firemen have trained for the eventuality that one day, they may have to save an innocent victim from the intense heat of a raging inferno.

In Afghanistan, military fire training is no different and although snow covers the ground, 850 degrees Fahrenheit flames present an obstacle for the Afghan air force and army student firefighters who have hopes of one day becoming professional firefighters.

Recently, deployed Airmen from the 439th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron conducted a structural live-fire exercise at the Air University’s Fire Academy at Kabul International Airport, geared at improving the Afghan air force and Afghan National Army ability to react quickly and effectively to fire protection scenarios.

With lights flashing and sirens wailing, this was a new experience for active-duty Afghan air force and Afghan National Army student firefighters who have participated in the fire academy training process together.

“This was the first time that the students were able to interact with Afghan fire academy firefighters in their environment,” said Master Sgt. Kile Stewart, a Kabul Air Base fire emergency services adviser with the 439th AEAS. “Our goal with this training is to help the (Afghan air force) and (Afghan National Army) become fully independent and operationally capable of providing fire protection for their assets and personnel.”

The three-day training course consisted of approximately 15 students that received a taste of the fire academy’s 80-day training course that included vehicle operations, use and donning of fire protective equipment and safety procedures used in a controlled live-fire environment.

“Many of the students have never experienced being on a fire team or the heat and smoke of a live fire situation so this is very beneficial to them,” Stewart said.

The students were given the opportunity to experience each of the fire team positions and the pressures they present to better familiarize themselves with the challenges that they may face in a future situation.

“I found today’s training outstanding; we had firefighters from many different units and detachments here so I’m confident that they will take this training and the lessons they learned back to those locations,” said Col. Qayoom, the director of fire services for the Afghan air force and Afghan National Army.

The combined efforts of U.S., Portuguese and Afghan officials have proven effective in Kabul commented Col. Qayoom.

Stewart added that the training would help not only the AAF and ANA, but also the Afghan people in general.

Currently, most Air Force firefighters are filling six-month deployment billets to enable this advisory training role. The Portuguese rotate on a one-to-two month rotation but the advisory role varies based on the mission and the locations.

Airman 1st Class Anthony Grochowski explained why he felt this training and interaction was important.

“This being my first experience with the Afghan people, I realized that they are here to help me as much as I’m here to help them,” he said. “It has definitely been an experience I’ll remember looking back at my career.”

Training continues for the advisers and the firefighters alike at units in Kandahar, Shindand and Mazar-e-Sharif.