Bond of brotherhood: Firefighter training crosses cultures

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti -- As a pair of Nomex-gloved hands reached forward and pulled a pressurized lever, the normally dusty landscape of Camp Lemonnier was transformed into something resembling a winter wonderland during a recent training event.

The gloves belonged to Siyaad Cheik, one of three Djiboutian nationals employed as a firefighter on Camp Lemonnier and certified by the Department of Defense.

"Working for the fire department has made my life very interesting," Cheik said. "It's the best job in the world. Every day I learn something new and further my education and skill level."

Cheik joined Alfonso Bravo, another Camp Lemonnier firefighter who hails from Ecuador, in an aircraft fire training scenario. Both firefighters were required to extinguish a simulated fire, using Aqueous Film Forming Foams, or AFFF, to douse the lower portion of a training aircraft - while a nearby fire truck blanketed the craft and firefighters with streams of water.

"The AFFF foam is really the best agent for extinguishing a fuel fire," said Fire Chief Jimmy Redpath, Camp Lemonnier assistant fire chief. "We train our guys to aim low when using the foam, because it will smother the fire."

Redpath said he is exceptionally proud of the dedication Bravo, Cheik and the other Camp Lemonnier firefighters have shown. The unit has embraced cultural differences and come together as a cohesive, life-saving team.

"We share a common bond as firefighters," said Chief Redpath. "We work hard and train hard. It's important to maintain our skill proficiency, especially given the life-saving capacity we operate in."