War on Terrorism

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Air Force first responders, first on scene to keep missions in motion

by Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

7/14/2010 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force officials emphasized that first responders -- security forces, fire emergency services and emergency medical services -- make up the essential elements necessary to protect people and assets.

Security forces responders train in realistic scenarios involving base organizations ranging from accidents, shootings, drivers under the influence, protests and domestic assaults, to barricaded hostages, felony arrest and routine traffic stops.

Critical to being a first responder are strength, stamina and continual training beyond the initial 65-day block at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, according to one security forces member with the 82nd Security Forces Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

"I like everything about it -- the experiences most people never have a chance to (have), like traveling the world, going to contingencies," said Senior Airman David Puma, whose primary duties are base law enforcement and entry control. "Every day presents a different challenge -- possibly even saving someone's life."

The 82nd SFS and other security forces squadrons throughout the Air Force have made active shooter training a priority for the last two years.

"We certified our unit trainers as range control officers with Fort Sill, Okla., so we could use their shoot houses and mount villages to give our troops realism during active shooter training scenarios," said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Hayden, the 82nd SFS superintendent.

Coordination with the local police departments to conduct joint training and exercises also help prepare teams in the event either would have to respond to back each other up.

Similarly, fire and medical responders play a key role in emergency situations, Sergeant Hayden said.

"We depend on the fire department for (its) expertise on ground hazards, safe distances for reaction to the scene and additional command and control," Sergeant Hayden said. "We also depend heavily on medical to evacuate and take charge of all (casualties)."

This first responder preparedness stems from appropriate training and equipment to respond to on- and off-base emergencies involving structures, aircraft, transportation equipment, hazardous materials, natural and manmade disasters and acts of terrorism by complying with the National Fire Protection Association standards, said Fred Terryn, a fire emergency services analyst for the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

The NFPA provides consensus standards and recommended practices that fire emergency services has adopted and implemented for standardization across the Air Force.

"Firefighters must constantly be alert to changes, lessons learned, new innovations and new hazards," Mr. Terryn said. "This is done by interaction with other emergency responders both inside and outside the installation, and the sharing of information within (the) Air Force."

Air Force firefighters complete extensive training that leads to internationally accredited certification in the Department of Defense Fire Emergency Services Certification System.

Other specialized training may be needed based on local requirements. For example, installations that have water bodies may need water rescue, swift-water rescue, or ice-rescue capability, said Don Warner, the Air Force fire chief at the AFCESA.

The third critical element of first responders is the medical responders.

Medical responders are all certified with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians at either the basic or paramedic level.

The medical group is poised to respond to any emergency that may occur on base, said Chief Master Sgt. David Sowers, the Air Force Medical Support Agency superintendent.

Members from the emergency medical services, bioenvironmental engineers and public health teams respond to emergent scenes and bring a capability they train for daily.

"As one leg in the triad providing emergency response on base, it is imperative medical responders train and support both security forces and the fire department in a myriad of emergencies ranging from basic care to hazardous material incidents," the chief added.

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