FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!

March Stone Tablet 4

Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony W. Walker, Afghanistan Regional Support Command, West Public Affairs

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – – Most people would be hesitant to rush head-long into a burning building, risking their own safety to ensure the safety of others. The Soldiers of the 176th Fire Fighting Team, Camp Stone Detachment, not only rush in to the fire, they train others to do it as well.

176th FFT - Afghanistan

Sgt. Andrew Coomer, 176th Firefighting Team, prepares a hose for stowage following a training exercise in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, March 2012. The 176th FFT is based out of Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center, in Greenville, Ky. (photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony W. Walker, Afghanistan Regional Support Command, West Public Affairs)

Deployed from their Army National Guard unit, based in Greenville, Ky., the unit was initially assigned to Camp Bastion, Helmand Province.

Only spending one month at Camp Bastion, the team was initially sent to Camp Stone, in the western region’s Herat Province, to provide support for the air operations at the camp.

“We were originally sent up to provide support for the helo operations here at Camp Stone,” said Staff Sgt. Wesley LaFortune, the team leader. “When we arrived, we found that there were other needs on camp that we could support.”

One of those needs was as trainers for the Camp Stone volunteer fire brigade. After several fires on the camp and at neighboring facilities, the need for a fire brigade became evident and volunteers answered the call. The arrival of the 176 FFT several months later provided the volunteers the opportunity to learn from professionals and the firefighters the opportunity to hone their training skills.

The training experience would better prepare the Soldiers of the FFT for their next opportunity, training the Afghan firefighters on neighboring Afghan National Army (ANA) Camp Zafar.

“Right after we arrived and got settled, the Stewardship Section lead, Lt. Col. Aleksiejus Gaizevskis (Lithuania), approached us about the possibility of training the Afghan firefighters,” said Sgt. Seth Frost. “We were excited about the opportunity to interact with the Afghans and give them the skills to ensure the safety of their fellow Soldiers.”

Training with the Camp Zafar fire department was not only helpful to the Afghans, the fire team also found the experience rewarding.

176th FFT - Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Wesley LaFortune (left), Sgt. Aaron Watts (center) and Spc. Ty Corriveau (right) demonstrate proper carry and assist techniques to the Afghans in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, March 2012. (photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony W. Walker, Afghanistan Regional Support Command, West Public Affairs)

“It was an excellent opportunity to interact with the Afghans, learn some of their customs and show them some of ours,” said Spc. Logan Brumit. “This is my first deployment and to have the opportunity to work closely with and train the Afghan firefighters was a great experience.”

For the Soldiers of the 176 FFT, the dedication and devotion to their brothers and sisters in arms and sense of selfless duty come from a long family history of military service,“My family has been Navy Seabees for three generations,” said Frost. “I initially enlisted in the Naval Reserve as a Seabee as well, and then transferred to the Army National Guard for the firefighting program.”

Spc. Matthew Stevens echoed the sentiments. “My father retired as an E-9, so I have always been surrounded by a military lifestyle, it was a natural decision to enlist once I graduated.”

Sgt. Aaron Watts, although initially enlisted with the desire to become a nurse, realized he could also help his fellow Soldiers by becoming a firefighter. “I enlisted out of respect for the service,”

Watts said. “My uncle and grandfather had served and a lot of my wife’s family had also served so enlisting was an easy decision. I wanted to do something to help others and although I originally wanted to become a nurse, fighting fires has been very rewarding and a great way to serve.”

The deployment, the first for the unit and most of the junior members, also gives junior firefighters valuable organizational experience.

176th FFT - Afghanistan

A fire helmet from the 176th Firefighting team sits ready on the seat of a firefighting truck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, March 2012. (photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony W. Walker, Afghanistan Regional Support Command, West Public Affairs)

“This is the first deployment for a lot of the guys,” said LaFortune.

“When we arrived, there was no established fire department, this has given our younger guys the chance to learn first-hand how to set up and organize a working fire house.”The organizational experience, coupled with the training experience will serve the team well in their future endeavors as firefighters, both in the military as well as on civilian departments.Following a hard day of grueling missions, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines of Camp Stone will be able to rest a little easier knowing the selflessly dedicated Soldiers of the 176 FFT have the watch while they sleep.