Friday, March 17, 2017

TOP STORY >> Different helmets, same mission

By Airman 1st Class Codie Collins 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Engines, tool boxes and water tanks — if one ceased to exist, a fire truck would not be able to serve its purpose. Just as fire trucks have different tools to accomplish a task, the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department has different elements, both military and civilian personnel, to ensure seamless operations.

The fire department has 51 personnel — seven civilians and 44 service members.

The 19th CES Fire Department staff protects life, property and the environment at Little Rock Air Force Base, provide fire suppression forces, highly-capable rescue crews and aggressive fire prevention and education programs to protect the lives and property of the members on the installation. They are also tasked with preserving the installation’s ability to deliver unrivaled tactical airlift by responding to flightline emergencies.

“Any task, whether within the department or assigned from our leadership outside of the department, cannot be accomplished without the team effort of our military and civilian firefighters working together,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Johnson, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy fire chief.

The fire department responded to 646 emergencies on and around Little Rock Air Force Base in 2016.

“Under our mutual aid agreements with our local partners, 19th CES Fire Department can be requested to respond off base to any nature of emergency,” said James Farrell, 19th CES civilian assistant chief. “The personnel and skills we bring can be a tremendous asset to many of our partners.”

The civilian firefighters provide the department continuity with their knowledge and experience.

“Civilians exist to impart their knowledge and experiences on their younger troops,” Farrell said.

“They work side by side, teaching the military the things they have learned over many years at the same installation. Conversely, our military teaches many of our civilians’ new techniques and skills they learned at other bases, things our civilians would not have otherwise been exposed. It is a two way street. Both components of the total force contribute to the other,” Farrell said.

Service members work alongside civilian firefighters as one team to accomplish missions and conduct training exercises. Though the civilians make up a small portion of the fire department, they have a large impact.

“Our civilians hold a wide range of positions from the installation fire chief down to our lead firefighters working with the operations section,” Johnson said.

“Three of our civilians hold key leadership positions within the department: The assistant chief of training, the assistant chief of fire prevention and one of two assistant chief of operations. Each one is just as important as our non-commissioned officers with regard to training and mentoring our young airmen and firefighters,” Johnson said.

Training exercises are conducted to ensure safety and efficiency during real-world emergency situations. By preparing for what could happen, the fire department personnel are more knowledgeable in high stress situations. In 2016, the department conducted 314 training sessions, averaging about 26 training sessions a month.

“We would absolutely not be able to complete the mission without the partnership with civilians,” Johnson said.

“Although our department has only a small number of civilians, their knowledge and experience are vital to the department. Military members are constantly moving in and out of Little Rock Air Force Base due to moving bases or deployments. The steady state of our civilians is essential in maintaining continuity throughout the department,” he said.