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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | June 20, 2019

Czech firefighters train with 155th Air Refueling Wing

By Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Nielsen Nebraska National Guard

LINCOLN, Neb. – Members of the 155th Air Refueling Wing’s fire department collaborated in training with their counterparts from the Czech Republic air forces June 4-6, at the Nebraska National Guard air base in Lincoln.

The State Partnership Program provides the avenue for this valuable exchange by bringing members of the air forces Czech Republic to Nebraska for hands-on training.

During the visit, the 155th Air Refueling Wing’s fire department provided specialized training that enhanced their partners’ awareness of aircraft and vehicle extraction procedures.

“We taught egress training on the KC-135 and while doing so we shared techniques, procedures, and different safety concerns from both sides,” said Master Sgt. Rene Arriola, 155th Air Refueling Wing fire chief. “We bounce ideas off each other. They tell us how they do things in their country, and we show them how we do them in ours.”

The Czech contingent included commanders, deputy commanders and firefighters from different Czech fire departments of military air force bases.

Capt. Jan Smetana, chief of the Czech Republic delegation, discussed the importance of sharing collaborative training and preparing firefighters for a variety of emergencies.

“Our firefighter’s main job is to protect people after a plane crash and support them,” Smetana said. “We often see similar planes like this landing in Czech bases during international exercises like Ample Strike and Dark Blade. We have to be able to give support to Americans and other colleagues who use different aircraft.”

Training on the KC-135R Stratotanker was part of the specialized training with the 155th ARW. The firefighters all agreed that it is essential to know how to approach the aircraft if it is on fire as well as correct egress procedures from inside.

“The program is very important for both of us at the 155th as well as the Czech Fire Department, because we land our aircraft on their runways often,” Arriola said.

Training like this familiarizes them with the KC-135R and puts them more at ease knowing how to properly and safely egress personnel in case of an incident, Arriola said.

In addition to training on aircraft, the 155th firefighters also set up scenarios using ground vehicles for firefighting and victim extraction. After training on various tools and procedures, the firefighters were put to the test as two-man teams competed in taking off vehicle doors using tools and procedures of their own choosing.

Smetana also talked about how firefighters were able to overcome challenges such as a language barrier.

“In the fire world a lot of things are familiar, and the languages are sometimes the same especially when you use actions and pictures to explain,” Smetana said. “Therefore, the overall objectives were all the same so we were able to accomplish all the training we set out to do.”

As the three-day joint training came to an end, Capt. Smetana expressed how important it is for them to visit the United States and to have a State Partnership with Nebraska.

“This was fantastic for us. It’s a special occasion to train in with multi-national colleagues and learn how our colleagues do the same thing as we do,” Smetana said. “This is also part of our education in general, because it is not only firefighting but connecting with foreign cultures.”