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NEWS | April 30, 2014

Putting out fires: All in a day's work for JB Charleston's leaders

By Senior Airman Dennis Sloan Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The 628th Air Base Wing leadership is taking the saying, 'Walk a mile in my shoes,' to heart as they visit units around Joint Base Charleston.

They aren't just touring facilities or watching Airmen conduct exercises; they are getting right in the heat of things.

"We thought it was important to get that time in the unit, getting to know our teammates, getting a better understanding of what they do on a daily basis and having the opportunity to thank them for what they bring to the fight," said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Bronson, 628th ABW command chief.

With that thought in mind, the 628th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department put 628th ABW leadership through their aircraft fire pit training exercise. Leadership included: Col. Jeffrey DeVore, JB Charleston commander, Navy Capt. Timothy Sparks, JB Charleston deputy commander, Master Chief Petty Officer Joseph Gardner, Naval Support Activity command master chief, and Chief Master Sgt. Mark Bronson, 628th ABW command chief.

It didn't take long before the command team found themselves inside a steel aircraft fighting multiple fires with temperatures reaching more than 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The heat was definitely intense but the fire suits protected us well," said Bronson. "Our masks fogged up pretty quickly once we entered the aircraft and it was tough to navigate and sweep the fire without being able to see."

"Safety is a huge part of all training we conduct," said Master Sgt. Craig Spears, 628th CES Fire Department assistant chief of training. "Outside of fitting leadership with proper gear, conducting fit test on our Self Contained Breathing Apparatus and general safety briefings, we followed our established safety protocols."

Each member was properly fitted with safety gear and a breathing mask as well as given a safety briefing before getting near the training aircraft.

"It felt good to show our leaders first-hand what we do on a regular basis, and to see them put out those fires, especially with the turret," said Staff Sgt. Kirt Wallace, 628th CES fire department fire fighter. "I was impressed with how they did."

Two members from leadership and a highly skilled 628th CES fire fighter fought fires with a truck and a turret from outside the aircraft before entering the aircraft and extinguishing fires inside.

"For first timers they did very well," said Spears.

Spears jokingly followed his previous comment up with, "I am not sure they are ready to man a truck at this point, but they definitely have potential."

When the fires were extinguished and leadership exited the aircraft, Airmen from the 628th CES assisted them with removing the safety gear and shared with one another how the training exercise went.

"I loved the experience," said Bronson. "I already had a lot of respect for what they do and that increased 10 fold. Managing the fire hose in tight spaces, unable to see and with the dangers of the fire make their job extremely difficult."