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NEWS | April 6, 2023

South Dakota Guard Firefighters Train Before Deploying

By Sgt. Raquel Birk, 5th Armored Brigade

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. – Members of the South Dakota Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves trained for the past year to team up with 5th Armored Brigade observer, coach, trainers and White Sands Missile Range firefighters for a culminating training exercise March 17-28 before deploying overseas.

“We’re deploying with the 216th Firefighter Command,” said 1st Lt. Christian Trainor, firefighter with the 216th Firefighter Engineer Detachment (Firefighter Team), South Dakota Army National Guard. “We’re going to be overseeing three units from [Houston,] Texas, and one from Boston. We do everything from firefighting to making sure everything’s up to code for buildings and electrical.”

As tactical experts in firefighting, first aid and rescue procedures, Soldiers with the 216th FED, ARNG, and firefighter engineer detachments with the 416th Engineer Command (Firefighter Team), USAR out of Houston will assume the fire protection of aviation assets, facilities, and installations mission throughout the European Theater in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The CTE is the last stop before heading overseas, a final evaluation led by WSMR trainers, and observer, coach, trainers with Task Force Thunder, 3rd Battalion, 410th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West. 

The trainers assessed the unit’s ability to give first aid to injured personnel, respond to hazardous materials incidents, inspect buildings and equipment for fire hazards, and brief fire protection procedures.

“One of the goals of the CTE is to give Soldiers the knowledge and confidence they need to safely and effectively execute their mission overseas,” said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron M. Morris, firefighter OC/T with TF Thunder, 3-410th Brigade Engineer Battalion. “From Day One to now, their confidence level and cohesion increased vastly. We have U.S. Army active-duty OC/Ts and installation firefighters working together with the South Dakota ARNG and USAR from Houston, embodying the total force partnership needed to get everyone on the same page.”

The Army total force participates in realistic, flexible training to enhance combat-credible land forces.

“The CTE is more fast-paced with real-world scenarios than the training we have done in the past because we’re mobilizing for deployment,” said Spc. Cameron Singletary, firefighter with 548 Firefighter Engineer Detachment, USAR. “It’s surreal since this is my first deployment, and so far, it’s been all positive experiences. First Army OC/Ts not only helped me fine-tune firefighting tactics and procedures but also encouraged me to pursue tuition assistance for academic advancement while deployed on my spare time.”

Soldier firefighters train to perform rescue and firefighting operations during structural fires, aircraft crashes, vehicle emergencies and natural cover fires.

“We are evaluating a building inspection and pre-fire plan modules for today’s training exercise,” said Michael Fritz, assistant chief of training, WSMR Fire Department. “It’s a full fire inspection, just like an inspector would go in and do for any other kind of occupancy, and then pre-plans for the response of the fire crews, which increases their ability to save lives.”

WSMR Fire Department and TF Thunder, 3-410th BEB, have a longstanding training relationship preparing firefighters for deployment.

“For the past nine years, we’ve assisted TF Thunder on validating firefighting, aircraft, vehicle fires, the industrial pipeline fires, structural fires, search and rescue, smoke field environment tactics, hazmat responses to include tank rollovers, rail car responses, and live fires,” Fritz said.

Each firefighter serves an integral role in the larger picture. They will take with them to Europe their knowledge of standard operating procedures shared throughout the past year and during this CTE.

“I’m happy to be deploying with the guys in my team,” said Sgt. Ryan Lavine, firefighter with 547 Engineer Firefighter Detachment, USAR. “A lot of them have experience as civilian firefighters and the ones that don’t are motivated to learn and apply the skills that we’ve been fine-tuning this past year.”

Army firefighters are similar to their civilian counterparts, including their willingness to risk injury or death to save others.

“The camaraderie, tactical and technical aptitude gained, competitiveness and ability to serve a greater purpose are some of the many reasons which attracted me to become a firefighter,” said Spc. Christopher Morales, father of two and firefighter with 548 EFD, USAR. “I also serve as a Department of Defense firefighter in my hometown of Houston, Texas. I look forward to taking the knowledge and confidence I gained during the past year, this CTE, and my teammates forward with me on this next chapter of our service to Europe.”



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