Soldiers train to fight fuel fires in Afghanistan

Pfc. Victor Miranda Aranda, a petroleum supply specialist serving in Afghanistan, participates in a May 5 training exercise with the Forward Operating Base Fenty Fire Department. The training reinforced quick response skills that could prevent injuries, deaths and a possible catastrophic loss of aircraft or other equipment.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, AFGHANISTAN – Petroleum supply specialists are trained to receive, store and distribute large quantities of fuel as safely and securely as possible. It is imperative they do their job well because it ensures military equipment and aircraft have the fuel needed to accomplish operations.

The work of these Soldiers can be dangerous given that petroleum is a highly flammable substance and handling it requires detailed procedures and safeguards. Even the smallest of slip-ups could lead to fires, possible injuries or death, and serious damage or loss of military aircraft and tactical vehicles.

Petroleum supply specialists assigned to Echo Troop, Task Force Heavy Cav, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, teamed up with the Fenty Fire Department May 5 for training that would prepare them for the possibility of fires occurring during refueling operations.

“The importance of our training is that it makes everyone feel more confident if they had to fight a fire with the response equipment they’ve got,” said John Crimean, Assistant Fire Chief of Operations.

A hand-held fire extinguisher is oftentimes the first line of defense for refuelers, Crimean further explained. The ability to respond quickly and efficiently is greatly enhanced by regular procedural reviews and rehearsals.

Speaking to the importance of this type of training, Task Force leaders note how petroleum supply operations are an essential part of keeping aircraft ready for any mission – particularly, transporting troops, equipment and supplies in support of Afghan and coalition partners for Operations Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support. Safe handling of petroleum to prevent a fire is vital to ensure mission success and operational readiness.

“Being a 92F, we deal with the aircraft every day, pulling fire guard and refueling the equipment. Hands-on, realistic training will show them what they are capable of dealing with if the situation occurs during operations,” said Staff Sgt. Navnil Mishra, petroleum, oil and lubricants noncommissioned officer in charge, Task Force Heavy Cav and a native of the Fiji islands.

Soldiers learning fire prevention training and techniques for military operations also can use those skills in other situations.

Pfc. Victor Miranda Aranda, a native of Monterey, Mexico, and Spc. Cesar Gonzalez from San Diego, know personally how their hands-on fire prevention training can be vital both in the military and civilian world.

“Spc. Gonzalez helped out in California as a firefighter last year, and he inspired me to do more for the community” said Aranda.

Back home, the two Soldiers are active volunteers with the Doña Ana County Fire Department in Chaparral, New Mexico. Gonzalez said there are basic skills of extinguishing fires – pull, aim, squeeze and sweep – that “will help people with any fire emergency.”

Through continuous rehearsal of basic skills, Task Force leaders observed, deployed Soldiers increase the Iron Eagles’ operational readiness in Afghanistan while allowing crews to fly safely and execute aviation missions across the Combined Joint Operations Area. Because of this training, the unit’s petroleum supply specialists are now better trained, prepared and ready to extinguish hazardous fires.

Basic and advance petroleum supply training is conducted at Fort Lee’s Quartermaster School. Fire training is part of the 11-week basic course program of instruction.