Baptism by fire

  • Published
  • By Charles J. Haymond
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

Firefighters from the Czech Republic air force, the 155th Air Refueling Wing of the Nebraska Air National Guard and the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department participated in a live-fire training June 5, 2019, at the fire pit here. 

Firefighters from Offutt are required to train twice a year using the fire pit and structural burning.

“Firefighters face a multitude of high hazard, challenging scenarios. Heat, fatigue, and low visibility, to name just a few,” said David Eblin, Offutt fire chief. “Training in a controlled environment allows firefighters to safely fight actual fires to prepare them for real-world events.”

Although this is required training for the firefighters, this exercise was a little unique. This time the fire department was hosting firefighters from the Czech Republic.

The Nebraska Air National Guard works in association with the Czech Republic through the State Partnership Program. Each participating guard unit has a brother or sister unit assigned to them. The SPP has been around for 25 years and now includes 76 partnerships with 81 nations around the world.  The Nebraska ANG has future plans for an additional partnership with Rwanda.

This is the second year the Nebraska ANG and the Czech Republic has participated in the SPP. The first year, the Guard went to the Czech Republic. While strengthening their relationship with the Czech Republic air force firefighters, they also were able to learn more about the Czech’s culture and tour their country. 

“Every year, or every other year or so, we will be invited to go to their country,” said Master Sgt. Rene Arriola, 155th ARW fire chief. “They provide us with training and we get a lot of the historical tour type things to familiarize ourselves with the different culture.”

The firefighters from the Czech Republic were excited for the opportunity to collaborate during this live-fire training at the fire pit and structural burning. These types of training scenarios are sometimes scarce in other countries.

“We are feeling happy that we could cooperate with you, and with our colleagues and friends from the Nebraska Air National Guard,” said Czech Republic air force Capt. Jan Smetana, firefighter. “We know how fortunate we are to train in this simulation, installation and facilities. We don’t have these facilities for our firefighters.”

Everyone was able to build-up one another through participation in these training exercises. While fighting through the language barrier they were facing, relationships were being built through one exercise after another. Not only did it expose the Czech Republic to training they would otherwise not receive, it allowed everybody involved to enhance their ability to communicate while fighting a fire, something that is difficult even without a language barrier. 

“It is very good fortune for us to train our language skills and cooperation,” Smetana said. “In the future we can use it in a potential foreign mission or big foreign exercise.”

The training exercises gave the groups the opportunity to learn from the unique experiences of their counterparts. All parties involved said they were able to take something, not just from the exercise, but from the other participants that they will use in the future to be better firemen.

“Firefighters are required to be proficient in a myriad of skills. The key to this preparation is training and repetition. Continually practicing these skills forms a second nature preparedness for real-world events,” said Eblin. “Working with other fire teams provides us an opportunity to expand our knowledge base and experiences through sharing of ideas and processes. Working with the Czech firefighters certainly provided a very unique and rewarding experience for our firefighters and we hope that we can continue this partnership in the future.”