Defend the base: 51 CES Firefighters

by Staff Sgt. Jake Barreiro
51st Fighter Wing PAO

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- This is the second in a series of articles relating an overview of the mission at Osan Air Base. The major role Team Osan plays in the Republic of Korea and the extent of its mission will be showcased in the way Team Osan's Airmen "Defend the base". Next week, there will be in-depth look at how the base executes operations. Concluding the series will be a wrap-up article with a video showing the broad spectrum of the base's mission.

At Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, stability is the expectation and often the status quo. More than 10,000 people here, made up by 51st Fighter Wing, 7th Air Force, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and multiple ROK Airmen, soldiers, families, civilians and retirees, have helped make the base an important installation in South Korea. Located approximately 48 miles from the demilitarized zone, the base covets an important airfield and even more important people.

Stability here is achieved through daily operations, but in times of emergency, there are numerous first responders who play a role in protecting the base. The Firefighters of the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron are one of Team Osan's prime first responder units, and they maintain a vital emergency response mission for the unexpected. On top of their daily individual and team training, the firefighters also conduct international joint training with their ROK counterparts. Always among the first to arrive to an emergency, from routine installation and infrastructure to calls about any of the base's A-10 and F-16 aircraft, the firefighters are pivotal to defending the base.

The 51st CES firefighters work on a rotational basis, fielding two teams that work opposite 24-hour shifts.

"Our primary job on base is to protect people, aircraft and infrastructure," said Staff Sgt. David Pacheco, 51st CES firefighter crew chief. "Anything that deals with a life or safety hazard, we respond to as quickly as possible."

Among the jobs the firefighters train and respond to are things as diverse as malfunctioning engine oil or misfired weapons on an aircraft, egressing people from confined spaces, stuck elevators and lesser and greater fires. Helping secure the safety of aircraft ensures Team Osan's mission of perpetual readiness is unperturbed, while aiding and protecting people from natural and manmade disasters keep people safe and poised to accomplish the mission.

Pacheco and his shift have responded to calls as diverse as a helping a youth retrieve a wallet off a roof to planes skidding off the runway.

In addition to dousing fires and excavating trapped people, firefighters are also trained to provide emergency medical assistance. Since they're among the first people to arrive on scene at an emergency, they may be required to stabilize patients to keep them alive for medics. Pacheco said the medical assistance is among the job's most important and rewarding challenges.

"Some of the emergencies and calls we get really make us work," said Pacheco. "But those important calls, where we help people during emergencies, that makes the work meaningful."

In order to be effective firefighters have to train. A typical shift contains the usual number of details and reoccurrences such as the 8 a.m. roll call and truck inspections, but the malleable nature of emergency response means dedicating extra time to temper and accentuate skills.

"About 50 percent of what we do is training," said Pacheco. "We have to do a lot of it because were always getting new people and on the scene we're always under a microscope so we need to keep our skills sharp."

But whether training or on site, the 51st CES firefighters are among the chief units helping defend the base.

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