CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan --
As the sun lowered below the horizon, prayers were heard rising in the warm summer air and eight Afghan National Army soldiers with the 215th Corps stood in full firefighting attire ready for their next training mission, June 7.
The few ANA soldiers who make up the Camp Shorabak Fire Department listened intently to their brief inside the brightly lit fire station, ready to test their mettle in the fire.
In order for the ANA to be able to maintain the airfield once coalition forces leave Afghanistan, they must have a crash fire rescue team capable of responding to any emergency on the airfield. The type of aircraft able to land on the airfield is limited by the water capacity of the fire trucks. The department is hoping to get a P-19, a larger fire truck capable of holding 1,000 gallons of water, which would allow the airfield to host larger aircraft. This exercise simulated a small aircraft crash with multiple smaller debris fires surrounding the main aircraft fire.
“Since we’re doing a live-fire training exercise we did a pre-brief for safety,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Jeffery Hackworth, Fire/Emergency Response adviser with the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron. “We went in and had a classroom discussion of what we expected, what the conditions were, what they will expect and also how to safely proceed especially since it’s nighttime.”
Once the advisers arrived at the training site, they began to stack old wood pallets around, inside and on top of an empty shipping container simulating a downed aircraft. They then set fire to the piles of wood and made the call to begin the test.
“They got here in about 6 1/2 minutes, which is actually outstanding considering the aggregate response time that we go by,” explained Hackworth. “It definitely falls within that realm.”
The flashing lights of the fire trucks met the chaos of heat and light blazing against the dark night sky as the flames tried to intimidate the soldiers, but they kept calm and attacked the fire from multiple directions, enabling them to extinguish the dangers within minutes after arriving on scene.
“I was proud of them,” said Capt. Shafiyllah, Camp Shorabak Fire Department Deputy, Afghan National Army 215th Corps. “I was surprised at the way they controlled the fire. They did a really great job.”
After only a few heart-racing moments, the soldiers checked all fires to make sure they were completely out before returning their equipment to the fire trucks and gathered around for the final assessment of the exercise with their advisers.
As the advisers and Shafiyllah praised the soldiers for their quick and thorough reaction to the fire, the soldiers began to stand a little taller in the red glow of the fire truck’s lights, proud of their own work and the skill they have begun to master.
“It’s really been a phenomenal year,” said Hackworth. “We’ve made huge strides and we’ve exceeded our own expectations. The higher the bar we’ve set, it’s been matched by the Afghans, and these guys, they are ready to go.”