Firefighters build confidence during rescue operations training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dymekre Allen
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 435th Construction Training Squadron conducted rescue technician certification training that tested 11 firefighters in simulated operations.

Not only was this a great opportunity for the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters, but it was also my chance to get a taste of what these heroes do.

During the past few weeks, I spent time with this group of firefighters to better understand how they mentally and physically prepare for their rescue missions.
By working with them during some training scenarios, I learned it takes courage, responsibility and teamwork to do what they do every day.

In the first week of training, I participated in high-angle rescue repel training from the side of a building and learned proper gear preparation.

On the day of training it was so cold it cut through your clothes and went straight to your bones. My shivering frost-bitten hands made it difficult tying the rope around the harness, despite these conditions none of the firefighters seemed to mind. It could have been a warm summer day to those fire dogs; they weren't going let weather hinder their mission.

The hours of preparation were grueling and every detail was thoroughly checked, from building working harnesses to insuring repel lines were in working order it took a substantial amount of time with the importance of safety always on their minds.

Going into the second week of training, the firefighters were tested on confined-space rescue operations where I happily posed as a lifeless body.

The paper-thin wooden training area splintered any part of your body that wasn't covered and it creaked and cracked under our feet and felt like it could collapse at any moment from the weight of the death-defying rescuers.

Tight corners and narrow corridors throughout the smoke-filled training area created many challenges, but for anyone who might be claustrophobic or afraid of the dark this course would seem almost impossible. That wasn't even the hardest part.

Coming back up from the dark, a disorienting labyrinth was the biggest mental and physical test for the firefighters. The slimy, wooden chimney posed the greatest problem because not only were they tired, confused and running out of oxygen, but they were also dragging me along with them.

Their gear, now weighing heavy on their shoulders and back, hindered their movements while climbing the smoky chimney, and I could easily see the frustration on their faces. Panicking was not an option because it would lead to mission failure--somehow they pushed on.

After seeing some of the firefighters' distress from the lack of air and visibility, along with their confusion when trying to escape the confined training area I could tell, it's enough pressure to break the average person, but these fearless few kept going. They fought through the hardships, and it became evident they are prepared for the worst in almost any situation.

From my perspective, it was a great experience I'm glad I had the opportunity to witness firsthand what it would be like to be part of a rescue team.

With all the bumps and bruises I received from firefighter rescue training, I realized their valor exuded the Air Force core values and the ability to work together and sacrificing themselves for the betterment of other people was obviously the greatest honor they could have.

Thank you to the men and women of the 435th CTS and 86th CES, I'm happy to say I came out of this alive.