SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- When called to respond to an aircraft mishap, firefighters have to be prepared at a moment’s notice to be able to assist however needed. When fires can rage on at more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the last thing one wants to be is ill-prepared.
To ensure firefighters are always ready to serve, members of the 375th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department joined with members from St. Louis Downtown Airport, Veterans of Southern Illinois Airport, MidAmerica St. Louis Airport and Barkley Regional Airport fire departments to train on approaches, fire attacks, proper application, turret training and in-truck operations.
"When people meet us, it’s usually one of the worse days of their lives,” said Keith Long, 375th CES Fire Department assistant chief of training. “So, they don’t like to see us standing around and we don’t have a lot of time to formulate decisions. We work really hard on building muscle memory. We do it enough that when we wake up to it were already going through the motions without realizing it."
By allowing civilian fire departments to train at Scott, it saves their counterparts upward of $1,200 per firefighter if they were to be sent somewhere else, said Long. There are not many facilities that provide live fire training and it assists with their Federal Aviation training that is required.
Long added that from May until the end of the October, about 200 firefighters from active duty, U.S. Air Force Guard, Reserve, and the civilian sector are trained at Scott. The 375th CES Fire Department accomplishes this by offering bi-monthly training throughout the season.
"We are really there to save each other,” said Long. “We are part of a mutual aid through all of Illinois. The time to meet somebody is not at your own emergency scene. You build some confidence between each other, compare notes when you train together so when you come together for the real thing you know what each other are doing."
Chris Poe, Barkley Regional Airport firefighter who has trained at Scott AFB for the past four years, said that the proximity of Scott to their airport in Paducah Kentucky is a major reason that they do their bi-annual training here. If the 375th CES Fire Department didn’t host this training, Barkley would have to send its firefighters to Louisville.
Barkley FD has been welcomed on to Scott AFB for the past 10 years to help create a stronger bond between the community and the installation. Poe said the aircraft trainer and the members of the Scott Fire Department make this the place to build better firefighters.
"They have one of the best facilities I’ve ever seen,” said Poe. “Plus the personnel here -- we like them. It’s very easy to work with them, that’s why we come here."
Scott AFB is home to 24 aircraft totaling approximately $634 million, and the 375th CES puts a high importance on ensuring they are prepared to safeguard the base’s assets at a moment's notice.