NEWS | Sept. 3, 2021

Nebraska, Czech Republic firefighters strengthen partnership

By Airman 1st Class Alexander Schriner, 155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska Air National Guard

LINCOLN AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. - Fourteen firefighters from the Army of the Czech Republic trained alongside their U.S. counterparts with the 155th Air Refueling Wing Aug. 16-19 at Lincoln Air Force Base and Offutt Air Force Base.

Nebraska and the Czech Republic exchange ideas and training methods and strengthen international ties under the National Guard's State Partnership Program.

The 155th ARW's fire department implemented different training scenarios throughout the visit so new and seasoned firefighters from both sides could sharpen their skills.

"We did car extrication, aircraft fires, pulling victims from burns inside a building, high-angle rescue and rappelling," said Master Sgt. Matthew Croteau, 155th ARW assistant chief of operations. "Built into the fire training, we had new guys just coming in that we're getting certified."

The Czech Republic fire department trains in Nebraska every two years. The 155th ARW's fire department is looking forward to going to the Czech Republic next year and participating in their training.

Senior Master Sgt. Rene Arriola, 155th ARW base fire chief, talked about why the training was important for the Czech Republic and Nebraska Air National Guard fire departments.

"It's really important for them to come and get familiarization of our standard operating procedures in the event they encounter U.S. aircraft in their country or on deployment," Arriola said. "The fire service is a large family, and building these relations only benefits us."

Maj. Jan Mericka, Czech Air Force Command, the Fire and Rescue Service of the Czech Air Force, agreed.

"The state-to-state cooperation is very important for the Czech Republic," Mericka said. "This is how we improve international confidence and trust of our common aircrews as well as fire rescue services members."

Training opportunities like this further develop the relationship between the 155th ARW, the Czech Republic and the state of Nebraska.

"The opportunities bring cooperation between both countries," Croteau said. "It brings the partnership closer between the Czech Republic and Nebraska. Training with them was great, and they were a good group of guys and gals."

Mericka said he looked forward to seeing the Nebraska Air National Guard again soon.

"Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac confirmed the importance of this cooperation between the Czech Republic and Nebraska by his personal visit at the beginning of the training," Mericka said. "We would like to continue in 2023 and hope for a visit in the Czech Republic."