JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD An aircraft fire is not an event anyone in the Air Force wishes for, but it can come in handy for a service members to get the real-world training of fighting a fire.
Such was the fortune for five Reservists with the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, who got more than they planned for while they were at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for their annual tour in June.
On June 24, an Eglin-based F-35 aircraft on a training mission when the pilot had to abort takeoff due to a fire in the back of the aircraft.
The pilot egressed safely from the aircraft with no reported injuries.
Within minutes of receiving the call via the primary-crash phone, firefighters were dispatched, including five Reservist firefighters from JBLMs 446th CES, who acted quickly and extinguished the fire with foam.
While on annual tour, they function as part of the Eglin Fire Department, said Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Seymour, 446th CES fire chief. The advantage is they get to train on the Eglin-assigned aircraft. This is an opportunity they do not get (at McChord Field). This is a win-win for all. Eglin gets fully-trained firefighters to add to their manning and we get invaluable training on aircraft and structural firefighting.
And invaluable training is just what the Reservists received during the aircraft fire emergency, Seymour said.
Actual live firefighting on an aircraft is one of the reasons Air Force firefighters exist, Seymour said. The difference between training and a real emergency are vast. In training you either know or can predict what will happen; it is a controlled situation.
An aircraft emergency is an out-of-control situation in which they must rely on their experience and training to bring the situation under control. There is no substitute for the real thing. Being involved in the real thing makes them trained and experienced firefighters as opposed to trained firefighters. So how valuable is the experience? It is priceless.