Military Firefighting Unit Deploys

Firehouse.Com News

Among those deploying this week for a possible war in Iraq is a military firefighting unit, the U.S. Army Ohio National Guard 5694TH Tactical Crash Rescue Unit.

The unit is scheduled to leave Wednesday morning and expects to be gone for about a year, said the unit's Fire Team Chief. Their mission is to "sustain fire protection in a Theatre of Operations." They are prepared to respond to structure fires, hazardous materials, airfield crash rescue, vehicle extrication, and mass casualty incidents.

The chief said the unit trains and operates much like a regular fire department, with only a few differences. "Well we've got to carry a weapon with us," he said. Also, in addition to NFPA standards, the unit follows military guidelines.

The chief said his unit is ready to go and feels good about their deployment. "Everybody's pretty eager to go. The units support it," he said.

Some of the members are full time firefighters, while others are only firefighters during their time in the reserves. All of them go through training at the Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas and come out certified in Firefighter 2, airfield crash rescue, and hazmat operations. They continue to train throughout the year.

The unit consists of the Fire Marshal, who is in command, an Inspector, then the Fire Team Chief, and three teams of firefighters. The chief said all three groups were being deployed along with their fire trucks and equipment.

The chief said those who are full time firefighters are getting a lot of support from their home departments, and some will continue to get paid while on military leave.

This will be a first deployment for some in the unit. Others gained experience after the unit was deployed to the Gulf War in 1991 and to Bosnia in 1997.

"Everybody hates to leave their family, but they all understand the reason," the chief said.