Friendships forged in fire

by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Stripes Korea

PYEONGTAEK, Republic of Korea – -- Airmen assigned to the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron fire and emergency services flight teamed up with their off-base counterparts to conduct joint training at the Korea National University of Welfare in Pyeongtaek, May 17.

The exercise was one of many held annually to familiarize the two services with each others’ equipment and techniques.

“We have mutual aid agreements with all of the surrounding cities around Osan Air Base, so we like to make sure that we all train together,” said Staff Sgt. Krystopher Morgan, 51st CES FES crew chief. “We get out, we get with our Korean counterparts, we train together so in case we ever do have something real-world off base, we already know how to work together.”

This exercise was a large-scale scenario involving a crashed aircraft, buildings that had caught on fire and multiple victims, said Tech. Sgt. Gary Schmidt, 51st CES assistant chief of training. The mutual aid agreement tells each agency what they need to provide for each other in situations just like these, which makes it important for the two forces to learn to cooperate and augment each others’ strengths.

According to the scenario, defined by real-world constraints, the local fire department would arrive on scene first and U.S. firefighters would follow after as backup once the call was received.

“For a new Airman to come to Korea and actually work with people that they’ve never worked with, with the language barrier and everything, this helps them to understand how we operate together and how it’s not much different from back home, stateside,” said Schmidt.

Not only did 51st CES Airmen assist in putting out the fires, they also supplied the ‘downed’ aircraft for the exercise: a propane-fueled structure that spews flames for the firefighters to safely practice their skills on.

“Obviously there’s a language barrier that comes into play whenever we’re dealing with foreign nationals, but firefighting is a pretty universal language,” said Morgan. “It’s always good to see that even though they have a little bit different equipment than we have, the technique’s the same, and (this training) helps us make sure that if we ever encounter them on a fire scene we can integrate perfectly into what they’re doing.”

Photo Caption:

A U.S. Airman assigned to the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron fire and emergency services flight observes as U.S. Air Force and South Korean firefighters combat a simulated aircraft fire during an exercise at the Korean National University of Welfare in Pyeongtaek, Republic of Korea, May 17, 2018. Such training opportunities benefit Airmen by allowing them to experience first hand what it is like to work alongside foreign service members, and learn how to overcome any language barriers.

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