Firefighters gain real experience on annual tour

by Sandra Pishner
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

7/8/2014 - MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- An aircraft fire is not an event anyone in the Air Force wishes for, but it sure can come in handy when you're a Reservist on annual tour.

Such was the fortune for six Reservists with the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington while they were at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida for their annual tour in June.

On June 24, an Eglin-based F-35 aircraft was involved in a continuation training mission when the pilot had to abort takeoff due to a fire in the back end of the aircraft. The pilot egressed safely from the aircraft with no reported injuries. Emergency responders, including the Reservists from JBLM, extinguished the fire with foam.

Within minutes of receiving the call via the primary crash phone, firefighters were dispatched, including five 446th CES firefighters: Master Sgt. Philip Alcantara, Tech. Sgts. Jesse Berg, and Eric Kiphart, and Senior Airmen Cody Hoefs and Craig Griffin. Remaining at the station during the incident was Senior Airman Logan Madlin.

"While on annual tour, they function as part of the Eglin Fire Department," said Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Seymour, 446th CES fire chief. "The advantage is they get to train on the Eglin-assigned aircraft. This is an opportunity they do not get (at McChord Field). This is a win-win for all. Eglin gets fully-trained firefighters to add to their manning and we get invaluable training on aircraft and structural firefighting."

Invaluable training such as the Reservists received with the June 24 aircraft fire emergency response.

"Actual live firefighting on an aircraft is one of the reasons Air Force firefighters exist. The difference between training and a real emergency are vast," said Seymour. "In training you either know or can predict what will happen and it is a controlled situation. A live aircraft fire is an emergency where they rely on the training they receive. An aircraft emergency is an out of control situation in which they must rely on their experience and training to bring the situation under control. There is no substitute for the real thing. Being involved in the real thing makes them trained and experienced firefighters as opposed to trained firefighters. So how valuable is the experience? It is priceless."