Spartans Rising

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz
  • 14th Flying Training Wing

Black Flag heat conditions, low visibility and breaks in communication were just a few challenges six 14th Civil Engineering squadron Spartan Firefighters overcame to complete their Hazardous Material Technician certifications at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi July 27, 2023.

“The Columbus Air Force Base Fire & Emergency Services conducted Hazardous Materials Technician certification to support the 14th Flying Training Wing mission and enhance community partnerships as part of the regional Hazardous Materials Response Team,” said Gary Crosson, 14 CES Assistant Fire Chief, Training. “The training entails rigorous academic study and culminates in two days of hands-on performance evaluations where critical skills are tested and validated in a wide array of scenarios to certify firefighters to this advanced level.”

The training and certification are critical to safely operate during hazardous material response and enables firefighters to enter an Immediately Dangerous to Life & Health chemical spill area using specialized fully encapsulated entry suits and equipment to conduct mitigation tactics, techniques, and procedures to rapidly deliver hazard analysis, monitoring, leak control, and incident mitigation.

“Today was the practical portion of our hazmat exam to become hazmat technicians,” said Airman First Class Robert J. Naranjo, 14th Civil Engineering Firefighter. “The most challenging thing today was the plugging and patching of the training devices, and wearing the Level A suit, where we’re fully encapsulated. It’s a little hard to see and move, your range of motion in your fingers is not as good and visibility is low because you’re also wearing another protective mask.”

The total training time required to complete the certification is approximately 75 hours for each firefighter.

“Today we had three candidates and three candidates yesterday, they’re working on their hazmat technician practicals so they have already completed the academic hazmat technician CDCs (Career Development Course) and the EOC (End of Course) portion,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel V. Martinez, 14th Civil Engineering squadron NCOIC Training. “They’ve been training for a month on the hazmat suit, DECON operations and offensive operations when it comes to a hazmat incident, they were evaluated on all of those things today.”

As part of the regional Hazardous Materials Response Team, Columbus AFB serves as the local subject matter experts in Hazardous Material response.

“Columbus AFB firefighters not only apply this critical skillset to on-base emergencies, but they also serve as a key partner on the regional hazardous materials response team,” said Crosson. “The Columbus AFB Spartan firefighting team continually trains alongside our joint partners across multiple counties and states to ensure we are prepared to serve our community no matter what challenge is presented.”

Despite the heat conditions with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, Spartan firefighters contended with increased reduction of visibility while encapsulated in the Level A protective suits.

“I was really impressed with their perseverance, they really wanted to get all the outside tasks done today…they fought the black flag conditions with very low visibility, their dexterity is lost and they’re boiling hot in those suits,” said Martinez. “That Mississippi heat is just brutally hitting everyone, but their willingness to get after it…they’ve been training for so long, to see all that come together today was really awesome, I’m really proud of that.”

The following 14 CES Spartan Firefighters completed the Hazardous Material Technician certifications: Senior Airman Isaac L. Fetterhoff, Senior Airman Devante Speck, Senior Airman Aaron J. Szelc, Senior Airman Ryan S. Stellato, Airman First Class Nathaniel Shifflett, and Airman First Class Robert J. Naranjo.