Air Force, Army effort saves government money

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Marelise Wood
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
In a joint effort between the firefighters of the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron and a deployed Army battalion, more than 60 Soldiers have been trained in the handling of hazardous materials, enhancing their emergency response skills and saving government dollars.

Army Capt. Eric Knight, the commander of Charlie Company, 55th Brigade Special Troops Battalion from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, first approached the Air Force firefighters about doing HAZMAT training with them so that his Soldiers could become more proficient and return to their units as subject matter experts.

This sparked a series of classes that began in late May.

"Since the end of May, we have held classes almost every week, training over 60 Soldiers," said Tech. Sgt. James Boyd, the Fire Station 2 station captain.

Boyd, who is deployed from the Illinois' Air National Guard's 126th Air Refueling Wing, said he saw the training as a win-win for all concerned.

"It was not only the right thing to do, but we're saving the government money," he said.

The Defense Department HAZMAT Operations Level class, a 40-hour course, can cost thousands of dollars at a civilian institution, Boyd said. That figure is before including the per diem entitlements the Soldiers would have incurred to travel to the school nearest to their respective units.

Here, Boyd and other members of his squadron were able to oversee the Soldiers as they completed the course online, perform reviews, conduct the test and perform practical application -- all requirements for successful completion of the course.

Members who complete the course are DOD certified and gain the knowledge needed to be able to perform basic control, contamination and/or confinement operations in a HAZMAT situation.

"This is one of the worst classes for us as firemen," Boyd said. "The material is dry and challenging. The hands-on (portion) is very physically demanding."

But, the Soldiers involved saw the benefit of the training and embraced it with gusto.

"After taking the online course, the Air Force classroom and practical exercises helped bring the training to light," said Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Frey. "I was confused at the beginning but by the end, I had a much better understanding of the hazardous material training."

Boyd said he was proud of the work the Soldiers put in.

"For these Soldiers, which there were only four with any kind of first responder, law enforcement or fire-type experience, it was remarkable to me that they have an over 90% pass rate."

The newly trained Soldiers will be able to incorporate the training into their home mission duties. Soldiers in garrisson at the Pennsylvania ANG are currently training in support of the Homeland Response Force mission. Units with an HRF mission provide quick-response medical, search and extraction, decontamination, and command and control capabilities as part of the DOD Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive Consequence Management enterprise.