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Firefighters qualify on rescue techniques during rescue technician course

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wellborn, 435th Construction and Training Squadron fire rescue and contingency training instructor, teaches students about rescuing suspended victims at the 435th CTS compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. The Rescue Technician I Course is a 15-day course that certifies firefighters on difficult rescue techniques.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wellborn, 435th Construction and Training Squadron fire rescue and contingency training instructor, teaches students about rescuing suspended victims at the 435th CTS compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. The Rescue Technician I Course is a 15-day course that certifies firefighters on difficult rescue techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wellborn, 435th Construction and Training Squadron fire rescue and contingency training instructor, prepares to descend from the top of Building 715 at the 435th CTS compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct.10, 2019. During this rescue maneuver, firefighters slowly descend to a suspended victim while maintaining control of themselves, even at dangerous heights.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wellborn, 435th Construction and Training Squadron fire rescue and contingency training instructor, prepares to descend from the top of Building 715 at the 435th CTS compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct.10, 2019. During this rescue maneuver, firefighters slowly descend to a suspended victim while maintaining control of themselves, even at dangerous heights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wellborn, 435th Construction and Training Squadron fire rescue and contingency training instructor, demonstrates a suspended victim rescue during a Rescue Technician I Course at the 435th CTS compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. To safely rescue suspended victims, firefighters might have to hang themselves upside down to fasten their belts to the victim and pull them both to safety.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wellborn, 435th Construction and Training Squadron fire rescue and contingency training instructor, demonstrates a suspended victim rescue during a Rescue Technician I Course at the 435th CTS compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. To safely rescue suspended victims, firefighters might have to hang themselves upside down to fasten their belts to the victim and pull them both to safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

A firefighter practices suspended victim rescue with firefighter during Rescue Technician I Course at the 435th Construction and Training Squadron compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. This course, taught by the United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa Academy twice a year, teaches students about rappelling at long heights and crawling into enclosed spaces to rescue victims.

A firefighter practices suspended victim rescue with firefighter during Rescue Technician I Course at the 435th Construction and Training Squadron compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. This course, taught by the United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa Academy twice a year, teaches students about rappelling at long heights and crawling into enclosed spaces to rescue victims. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

Airman 1st Class Troy Traeger, a firefighter from the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, waits suspended in his harness for his rescuer during Rescue Technician I Course at the 435th Construction and Training Squadron compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. During the exercise, students would take turns acting as the victim and the rescuer, using teamwork to help each other through the suspended victim rescue exercise.

Airman 1st Class Troy Traeger, a firefighter from the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, waits suspended in his harness for his rescuer during Rescue Technician I Course at the 435th Construction and Training Squadron compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. During the exercise, students would take turns acting as the victim and the rescuer, using teamwork to help each other through the suspended victim rescue exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater.)

Samuel Burns, a firefighter from the 422nd Civil Engineer Squadron, wraps knots on a brake bar rack during Rescue Technician I Course near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. Multiple knots on the brake bar rack are necessary to add friction to the system, making it easier for firefighters to control the system’s ascent and descent.

Samuel Burns, a firefighter from the 422nd Civil Engineer Squadron, wraps knots on a brake bar rack during Rescue Technician I Course near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. Multiple knots on the brake bar rack are necessary to add friction to the system, making it easier for firefighters to control the system’s ascent and descent. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

Adam Parker, a firefighter from the 423rd Civil Engineer Squadron, speaks with another student about their team’s next move during Rescue Technician I Course near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. The Rescue Technician I Course is open to firefighters from all branches of service as well as civilians.

Adam Parker, a firefighter from the 423rd Civil Engineer Squadron, speaks with another student about their team’s next move during Rescue Technician I Course near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. The Rescue Technician I Course is open to firefighters from all branches of service as well as civilians. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

Airman 1st Class Trevor Farber, a firefighter from the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, sits suspended in the air during Rescue Technician I Course near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. This maneuver, called the “highline”, requires firefighters to split up into two teams to transport one or more persons across different buildings.

Airman 1st Class Trevor Farber, a firefighter from the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, sits suspended in the air during Rescue Technician I Course near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019. This maneuver, called the “highline”, requires firefighters to split up into two teams to transport one or more persons across different buildings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

Airman 1st Class Ethan Revelle, a firefighter from the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, pulls on a rope along with other students during Rescue Technician Course I Course near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 11, 2019. Depending on the speed of the firefighters’ pulls, their system can move slower or faster.

Airman 1st Class Ethan Revelle, a firefighter from the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, pulls on a rope along with other students during Rescue Technician Course I Course near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 11, 2019. Depending on the speed of the firefighters’ pulls, their system can move slower or faster. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

Airman 1st Class Trevor Farber, a firefighter from the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, sits suspended in the air on a highline during a Rescue Technician I Course near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 11, 2019. The highline maneuver is important for firefighters to learn in the event they would need to save people in difficult-to-reach places, like canyons.
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Airman 1st Class Trevor Farber, a firefighter from the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, sits suspended in the air on a highline during a Rescue Technician I Course near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 11, 2019. The highline maneuver is important for firefighters to learn in the event they would need to save people in difficult-to-reach places, like canyons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

A firefighter has only 30 minutes for the rescue. It’s raining. The victim is conscious, but stuck hanging in the air next to a wall. Their boots slip with every step on the concrete. To perform the rescue, the firefighter will have to scale down the wall to lower himself and the victim to safety. And they only have 30 minutes.

This suspended victim rescue exercise was a part of United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa Fire Academy’s Rescue Technician I Course, but could easily become a real-life scenario at any moment.

The Rescue Technician I Course is a 15-day firefighter training course, this time held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 18 at the 435th Construction and Training Squadron compound near Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The course is held twice a year and is open to all branches of military fighters and civilians.

The class certifies firefighters on technical rescue maneuvers such as crawling into an enclosed space, rappelling down from great heights, and passing over knots. The class also teaches students about keeping victims calm in the middle of a rescue.

Keith De Jongh, a student in the course, said the training, specifically hanging off a building, was nerve-wracking at first, but as it progressed he became more confident.

“It’s kind of all in your hands,” De Jongh said. “We set up systems that are there and then the rest is on you trusting your hands, the ropes, what you’ve learned and what they taught you. So once you get past that initial nervousness, it’s not so bad.”

Staff Sergeant Germane White, rescue training instructor at the USAFE - AFAFRICA Fire Academy, has been teaching this course for two years. He said one of the best parts was seeing the student’s progression from timid at the beginning to fearless by the end of the course.

“It’s almost like seeing your little brother or sister graduate,” said White. “It’s a good feeling.”

Senior Airman Erasmo Boggs, a student in the course, said one of his favorite parts of the course was ascending and descending from walls. He said descending made him more nervous than ascending because you have to put more trust in the system.

“You know you’re gonna get caught no matter what,” Boggs said, “but some people would get in their heads, so it would be a lot harder.”

De Jongh said the course is important because of the amount of real-world scenarios that can happen where this type of rescue training will come into play.

”People work on top of buildings every day,” said De Jongh. “People go in confined spaces doing work every day and things happen where this training would be invaluable in retrieving those persons.”

White himself has had to use this training in action before, when a maintainer ended up stuck in the air while de-icing a McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender. White said they had to use a fire truck ladder to rescue the Airman from the plane.

Even at these dizzying heights, White said he’s never been scared. For him, this is all a part of what makes fire protection the best job in the Air Force.