Service Before Self - just another part of being an Andrews firefighter|
Posted 6/7/2010 Updated 6/7/2010
by Chelsea Gitzen
316th Wing Public Affairs
6/7/2010 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- When any given person goes to work each day, they might expect some manual labor, some office politics, maybe a presentation or two.
What they may not expect is to run into a burning building and possibly rescue a disoriented child from an inferno. They may not expect to perform emergency medical services to someone who just suffered multiple injuries from a car accident. They may not expect to use the "jaws of life" to extricate a young boy caught in his bicycle unable to disentangle himself.
At Joint Base Andrews, members of the 316th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department expect to encounter situations such as those every day.
"We cover everything from crash and structural firefighting to woodland firefighting," said Tech. Sgt. Roger Dupuis, 316 CES firefighter. "For any emergency, members should contact the installation fire department and expect us to be experts on that emergency situation - whether the emergency is a high-angle rescue such as a contractor painting a water tower and having a heart attack, a swift water rescue at the base lake, a medical emergency, a vehicle accident where a victim requires automobile extrication, etc., people should rely on the Airmen of the fire department."
Training, as with any career field, is very important; however, in this line of work, each firefighter undergoes a great amount of training in order to meet the national standard as well as the military's standard. Every firefighter must be qualified to perform every duty in the career field from driving the fire truck to operating the "jaws of life."
"We are not able to perform our mission unless all of our Airmen have completed all of their training and are 100 percent proficient," said Chief Ralph Barone, 316 CES fire department chief. "This field is truly unique - it is the only one in the Air Force where Airmen continue their career development courses throughout their entire career, from entry level to senior enlisted. In our field, we expect every Airman to continue up through the ranks until they become a fire chief."
In addition to extensive training exercises and regular military training, the firefighters also must earn Community College of the Air Force degrees in order to continue up through the ranks.
"Many of our members have bachelor's degrees because they are also professional students," Sergeant Dupuis said. "There is never a rest period."
Among all of the education requirements, firefighters also make the time to participate in community service events, at times contributing with their off-time.
"These guys volunteer in the local community regularly," Sergeant Dupuis said. "This year they raised around $3,000 to donate to the burn center; $1,700 to the muscular dystrophy campaign; they donated 12 hours of their off-time between two 24-hour shifts to complete maintenance on an elderly civilian's house through the Christmas in April program; they bought a boy a bicycle; and they volunteered to participate in a local school's career day. And these are not guys who have a lot of spare time - they work at least 72 hours every week."
Every firefighter must accept the fact that for every call, every time an alarm is sounded and they suit up for their mission, they may be going out to save the life of a stranger they have sworn to protect.
This daily risk is one that each firefighter willingly accepts and embraces - exemplifying the Air Force core value of "Service Before Self."
"These guys don't just have a job, they have a calling," Sergeant Dupuis said. "They are truly dedicated to what they do. They come to work every day knowing that day may be the one when they're called upon to exchange their life in an effort to save someone else's."