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178 Fire Rescue trains for realism

  • Published
  • By Sgt. 1st Class Brad Staggs
  • Atterbury-Muscatatuck Public Affairs
Imagine crawling through part of a collapsed building just barely big enough to fit through and then pulling out an unconscious victim while keeping them alive.

This is what Airmen of the Ohio National Guard's 178th Fighter Wing Fire and Rescue train for every day of their military save lives in the most inhospitable conditions.

At the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind., the 178th found the perfect place to practice all five core technical rescue competencies, according to Fire Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Hennigan. "We are certified on and have to train each year on structural collapse rescue, confined space rescue, vehicle or machinery extrication, rope rescue, and trench rescue," Hennigan said. "At this facility, we can do all of it in a week."

Each day, the Airmen of the 178th are given a different scenario that they must react to. In the morning, they responded to a trench rescue in which a car slid into a trench. In the afternoon, Staff Sgt. Chad Slonaker is performed a high-line rescue over the flooded community.

The training cannot be stressed enough as the fire fighters have only had the recovery mission since October of 2011, but some firefighters, such as Master Sgt. Joseph Riley, the rescue mission is just an extension of the job they've been doing all along.

"I just crossed 27 years with the Air National Guard," said Riley, who has been a firefighter his entire career. "We've always been incorporating parts of these skill sets into our Air Force firefighter training, now we're just really getting into the technical aspect of it."

While the firefighters of the 178th still do their regular firefighting jobs and keep up their Department of Defense certifications, the rescue piece has been added on top of it. They are one of only two Air National Guard Search and Rescue teams which are part of FEMA District 5.

According to Hennigan, the training has been worth the trip. He said that while firefighters are used to running into a burning building or taking care of a situation as quickly as possible, search and recovery creates the opposite effect...forcing everybody to slow down.

Once on site, the firefighters have to evaluate what the risks are with the area they are going into. They have to take their time and create opportunities others might not think of.

Muscatatuck, for Hennigan, gives the Airmen the realism they need to feel that every event could be a life and death situation. "Everyone at Muscatatuck has been extremely helpful, getting us what we need by blocking off roads, digging a trench and placing a car in it. It's been pretty awesome!"