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Nigerian air force firefighters visit 17th AF, Ramstein Fire Dogs

Nigerian air force firefighters visit 17th AF, Ramstein Fire Dogs -- By Matt Herron

17th Air Force Public Affairs

In the early morning hours of Sept. 2, Senior Airman Winston Jerez hung suspended from a building in the 435th Construction Training Squadron compound, demonstrating the basket operation rescue maneuver to three firefighters from the Nigerian air force.

The representatives included NAF Wing Commander Sola Akinboyewa, Warrant Officers Abibu Kazeem and James Ochai, who were visiting Ramstein as part of a familiarization hosted by 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa). With the help of Ramstein firefighters, they observed Air Force techniques here with hopes of putting what they learned into practice back in Nigeria.

Using a complex arrangement of rope pulleys, CTS Fire Instructor Staff Sgt. Ron Lee hoisted Sergeant Jerez, also an instructor with the CTS, off the ground and halfway to a training building's roof while Instructor Tech Sgt. Jeffrey Wyatt narrated events and responded to questions from the experienced NAF firefighters. Explaining the use of the rope system and how to bring a man up from the ground, and a patient down, Sergeant Lee emphasized the importance of rescuer communication to preserve patient safety, during this critical operation.

"The men are more conscientious of patient safety when they have experienced riding in the basket for themselves; so we try to give everyone a turn in the basket," Sergeant Wyatt explained to NAF firefighters.

While the Nigerians have been fighting fires and rescuing occupants for more than 15 years, they had never seen the type of equipment used by firefighters here.

Responding to what he observed, Commander Akinboyewa noted the difference in his firefighting experience, "in our training and operational methods there isn't enough emphasis on safety to personnel."

Impressed by what he saw, Commander Akinboyewa expressed his desire to create new safety standards for NAF firefighting doctrine once he returned to Nigeria.

Following the rescue demonstration, the NAF officers were treated to a tour of Ramstein fire facilities, including classrooms, further reinforcing the preeminent role that recurring training plays within this critical occupation. Ramstein fire fighters also demonstrated the vital requirement to document and track individual firefighter skill attainment.

The NAF guests, who hail from both the managerial and operational spheres of NAF firefighting, seemed to take away real-world knowledge from their review of operations here.

"It only makes sense that we should learn from them [U.S. Forces]. They are the most experienced in the world. And Nigeria still has a long way to go in terms of experience. So visits like this give us a chance to borrow from that experience as we further develop our own systems," Commander Akinboyewa said. "We can take this knowledge back with us and share with our firemen."

The Nigerians also spent time at 17 AF headquarters, meeting with Commander Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward to discuss future engagements and build on the partnership that began shortly after the unit stood up in October 2008. The group also observed the mutual aid exercise in Ramstein village Sept. 4.

A key element in strengthening the partnership between the participants was the expertise shared between firefighters. The hosts from Ramstein were delighted share their knowledge with their occupational brother, Sergeant Wyatt explained.

"They show a great interest in our practices; fire fighters share a special bond which reminds us of how important our mission is."