CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The flames of the fire were beginning to snake up the sides of the building as blaring sirens signaled the arrival of the Camp Fallujah fire department on the scene of their first live-fire drill here May 13.
The ten-man firefighting crew, comprised of five Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 and five soldiers from the 1439th Engineer Battalion, was recently assigned to Camp Fallujah to fulfill the base's need for a fire department.
The combination of Army and Marine firefighters with different backgrounds enhances the team's capabilities. Crash Fire Rescue Marines are generally attached to aviation units to fight aircraft fires, while soldiers train to combat structure fires primarily.
The department's first exercise was set up to challenge the team and take them by surprise.
"None of the personnel knew it was coming; it would have defeated the purpose of the drill," said Staff Sgt. Jose L. Aguirre, the Camp Fallujah fire marshal.
As the orchestrator of the training exercise, Aguirre set an uninhabited building ablaze and waited for his team to respond and properly extinguish the fire.
They arrived two minutes after the fire was set, according to the Huron, Calif., native.
The quick response began at the fire department's office.
"I received the call that we had a building fire south of East Road, so I proceeded to that location," said Lance Cpl. Matthew T. Laidlaw, a crew chief from Murphys, Calif.
Within 20 minutes of the call, the fire was out and the crew was preparing to return to their firehouse for a debrief.
Although just a drill, they responded with speed and professionalism.
"This is what we train for, you know what you have to do," said Army Spc. Adam J. Steuer, a firefighter and a Roscommon, Mich. Native. "The drill refreshed a lot of things I've already been taught."
Exercises like this will be conducted throughout the fire department's stay at Camp Fallujah.
"Overall the drill went outstanding," said Aguirre. "They did everything I expected them to do. There were some minor details, but we can expect those. They are easy to overcome."