SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
“Just looking at a fire right in the face, it was right there, no further than a foot away from me. I’m just standing there, being told what to do, having to react,” reminisced one high school student here.
Omar Moylan, a senior at Spangdahlem High School, trained on his first live-fire exercise with the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department March 26, 2019, here, as part of the school’s Career Practicum program.
“I want to go into the Air Force as a firefighter,” said Moylan, who has been training with the department for two months. “It’s something that just interests me.”
The department conducted a live-fire aircraft burn exercise in the morning and concluded with vehicle extrication as part of their required training.
Live-fire exercises help firefighters learn how to extinguish engine or fuel pool fires, said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Broussard, 52nd CES fire prevention NCO in charge.
“It’s one thing to train in the classroom or even outside, but when you actually see the aircraft and that fire, you apply some of those techniques we get to train with,” Broussard said.
A metal trainer aircraft lit by propane was used to simulate the fire. This allowed the firefighters to practice multiple strategies to put it out.
Moylan’s participation confirmed his desire to be a firefighter.
“When I was doing that,” Moylan said, “I was like, this is what I want to do. This is what I want to be.”
After the live-burn training, Moylan and a team of firefighters used high-pressure hydraulic equipment to conduct vehicle extrication training.
“We were using some very powerful tools to cut a car apart in a way that would not harm a patient inside,” Broussard said. “The point of that is for us to move quickly and effectively get a victim out of a car that’s been in an accident, or maybe having some kind of medical distress.”
This was the first time a student has trained to this extent with the fire department, said Broussard, who is Moylan’s main trainer.
“We had the privilege of having Omar come out,” Broussard said. “It was good to see how easily he was able to just fit right in that schedule. Once we started rolling, you could not tell who was someone assigned here and where Omar was. All the training he and I have accomplished in the last two months has really paid off.”
Moylan used the opportunity to learn from the fire team.
“I learned from an Airman today to stay calm and collected when you’re in there,” Moylan said. “Don’t freak out. Stay cool under pressure.”
Not everyone gets the chance to experience real firefighter training.
“Omar was out there using the same tools that a normal firefighter would use.” Broussard said. “We don’t really let many people do that. It was a very unique thing for him to get that experience.”
Moylan’s participation was part of the school’s program, which is designed to provide school-to-career experiences and training for students through a work practicum related to their career goal.
“I have not heard of a program quite like Spangdahlem has,” Broussard said. “We’ll do job shadows for a day and have students come out, see our trucks and put gear on, but this program is definitely a unique thing.”
Besides training as a firefighter, the program allows students to work at jobsites including a salon, veterinary clinic, the 52nd Medical Group, the air traffic control tower, and other locations on base, said Kathy Campbell, Spangdahlem High School Career Practicum Technology teacher.
“We have gone from having 12 students at the beginning of this year to more than 20 who are signed up next year,” Campbell said.
This is the first year the program has been developed to this extent here.
Besides obtaining life experience, participating seniors earn credit towards graduation, Campbell said.
“I wish this was something available when I was in high school,” Broussard said. “I think Spangdahlem is on to something with this. It’s definitely preparing seniors on the verge of graduating for a career in whatever they may want to do.”
Moylan, who will continue training with the fire department until he graduates this spring, said he feels he now has an advantage when he enlists into the Air Force as a firefighter.
“How many kids go out there with their local fire department and put out fires with them?” Moylan said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”