Weekly Training Exercises Teach Teamwork, Hone Skills
As senior government leaders hammer out a new Status of Forces
Agreement that will set the path for future American and Iraqi
military policies, a group of American and Iraqi firefighters have
already developed a working relationship that protects people,
structures and aircraft at Baghdad International Airport.
US Air National Guard firefighters from the 447th Expeditionary
Civil Engineer Squadron are working with Iraqi air force
firefighters from New al Muthana Air Base, learning how to
collaborate to protect life and property in the event of any type
of ground or in-flight emergency.
The most recent training paired the American and Iraqi
firefighters in an exercise where they practiced the procedures for
rescuing the flight crew from a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft
in the event of a fire in the cargo hold. The training began with
the firefighters meeting for a briefing to discuss the objectives
of the exercise including aircrew egress procedures and how to
integrate their rescue and firefighting processes.
"We used an Iraqi air force C-130 for the training, and the
Iraqi firefighters took the lead in entering the aircraft," said
Chief Master Sgt. John Cinquemani, 447th Expeditionary Civil
Engineer Squadron. "It's important to learn about each other's
capabilities and become familiar with the different equipment
that's used so we can integrate into one team in the event of any
type of emergency. We have to have one common goal and one common
process in order to save lives and get the job done."
Working firefighting activities at an airport offers a unique
set of challenges and dangers as compared to a regular city fire
department, said Cinquemani, who is deployed from the 105th Airlift
Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York where he serves
as the full-time fire chief for the Guard Base as well as Stewart
With more than 37 years as a firefighter and 23 years as a fire
chief, Cinquemani understands those challenges and dangers, and
pushes both the American and Iraqi firefighters to learn how to
work together. To that end, the chief is planning weekly training
and exercises that will encompass a vast range of crisis scenarios
and push the firefighters to perform as a seamless team.
"If we have an emergency on the Iraqi air force side of the
airfield or involving an Iraqi aircraft, then they will take the
lead and we will back them up," he said. "If it involves an
American aircraft, they have our backs-and it takes constant
training to be ready."
When the training began, the call went out over the radio
announcing an emergency response to a simulated fire aboard the
Iraqi aircraft. The Iraqi and American fire trucks rolled out
across the taxiway and took staggered positions around the
aircraft. With the Americans wearing silver protective suits and
the Iraqis wearing black, they worked together to pull hoses off
the Iraqi trucks and prepare to enter the aircraft.
The Iraqis manned the hoses and stood by as American
firefighters counted down and then yanked open the aircraft door.
The Iraqis immediately pushed through the opening with their hoses
and began clearing procedures, followed by their American
Once the aircraft was cleared, the teams gathered to discuss
what they did well, and what they could do better. "We still have
to overcome the language barrier and do better in coordinating our
actions so we all move and act together," said Staff Sgt. Jason
Ankenbauer, 447th ECES firefighter, who is deployed from the 144th
Fighter Wing at Fresno Air National Guard Base, CA.
"When you are dealing with an aircraft fire, there are lots of
other things to consider including the fact that you have to work
very quickly-not only to save lives but because it's a
three-dimensional environment and there are always going to be
other activities around the emergency area and multiple aircraft
overhead that are waiting to land," he said.
Their training also will allow them to be better prepared to
assist civilian Iraqi firefighters on the Baghdad International
Airport side of the flightline in the event of a major civilian
aircraft crash, fire or mass-casualty incident, Ankenbauer
Cinquemani praised the firefighters for staying focused on their
task, and doing their best to move as a team. He then explained
that he is working on a project to make sure all American and Iraqi
firefighters get the same self-contained breathing equipment so
they can more effectively team-up while working and training
Cinquemani's plans for additional exercises and training include
scenarios that will call upon American and Iraqi firefighters as
well as medical personnel from the 447th Expeditionary Medical
"The Iraqi air force firefighters are obviously very proud of
their accomplishments, and every step we take with them in training
is another step towards their capability to take over all of the
military emergency services activities here," he said. "Each of
their accomplishments also brings them one step closer to becoming
a fully independent and operational air force."
(Aero-News salutes Master Sgt. Brian Davidson, 447th Air