MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE – The 908th Civil Engineer Squadron collaborated with the Fort Benning Fire Department Aug. 4, 2022, and Maxwell Fire Department, Aug. 5, 2022, in a two-part live fire training exercise to prepare for real-world scenarios and ensure mission readiness.
In anticipation of the 908th Airlift Wing’s transition from the fixed-wing C-130 Hercules tactical airlift mission to the rotary-wing MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter training mission, 908 CES firefighters conducted their annual aircraft training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Senior Master Sgt. Aaron Bebernitz, 908 CES fire chief, spoke about the Army’s role in the training and utilizing their helicopter trainer, which is designed for firefighter training.
“We were able to coordinate with the Fort Benning Fire Department and perform our first joint interoperability training with the U.S. Army,” Bebernitz said. “(T)hey provided us with a unique aspect of live fire training that we do not currently possess at Maxwell AFB.”
At present, the live fire aircraft trainer at Maxwell AFB is down for maintenance, which further pushed the decision to coordinate and foster a partnership with the Army. Participating in controlled aircraft and structural live fire exercises is an annual requirement mandated for reservists.
“This was a unique opportunity where we had to improvise, adapt and overcome,” said Bebernitz. “We utilized our resources within our fire department and our traditional reservists that work as federal firefighters at Fort Benning to schedule our trip down there to use their helicopter trainer for on-station training.”
The training exercise benefited both forces. Firefighters from the 908 CES had the opportunity of being exposed to a mission they were unfamiliar with and gained more confidence, while firefighters from Fort Benning observed and learned how another department trained and tackled various scenarios.
Before they loaded onto the truck and responded to the scenario, leadership briefed them on safety, conducted a survey and ensured everyone understood which task and position they were responsible for.
The firefighters prepared to respond to the rotary-wing aircraft fire by memorizing their game plan, communicating and properly donning their personal protective equipment. The PPE includes a coat, pants, boots, gloves, hood, helmet, radio, face piece, and a self-contained breathing apparatus, which provides them with oxygen for a limited time.
For Senior Airman Coryan Carter, this was his first time participating in a live helicopter burn like this.
“The helicopter fire at Fort Benning presented different hazards and dangers than that of a structural fire,” said the 908 CES firefighter. “With internal aircraft fires, we must consider fuel, ammunition, the wings, the pilot, the cargo, or other members that may be on board.”
After successfully meeting their objectives on day one, the firefighters began to concentrate on their second day of training, which took place in a training building at Maxwell AFB. The Maxwell Fire Department assisted the 908 CES firefighters in prepping the live fire, providing guidance and support, supplying firetrucks and resources, as well as cleaning up the scene once training was completed.
The firefighters were evaluated on entering the building, engulfed with fire and smoke, and extinguishing it to fulfill their annual training requirements. The training brushed Airmen up on a wide variety of firefighting principles, techniques, and challenges they may experience on scene.
Many times when that alarm sounds off they have no idea what type of situation they’re heading into which is why training is paramount. Exercises like these help firefighters hone in on their individual and team skills, build trust, and further their preparedness for real-world threats and mission capability.
“We’re going to fight and train hard every day,” said Bebernitz. We’re preparing for the new MH-139 mission, and, whenever that mission does arrive, your firefighters will be ready.”