News: Portuguese train Polish, Italian soldiers to walk through fire
Story by Sgt. Samantha Parks
CAMP SLIM LINES, Kosovo – "You feel fire all over your body, in your legs, in your arms, in your head; everywhere is fire," Polish Army Master Cpl. Lukasz Demkowicz, team leader, said as he described his experience of fire phobia training.
Portuguese soldiers trained Italian and Polish soldiers on the proper procedures for protecting themselves if molotov cocktails are thrown during a crowd and riot control event through fire phobia training at Camp Slim Lines July 25.
"Today we taught fire phobia to the Polish and Italian platoons,” said Portuguese Army 1st Lt. Joao Costa. “It's their first contact with this kind of training."
Training was broken down by crawl, walk, run phases, gradually increasing in difficulty.
"When teaching fire phobia first we demonstrate the final technique, what we want them to achieve, the end state and then we start by procedure with the basic level," Costa said.
Soldiers first practiced without a baton or a shield. Portuguese trainers tossed water bottles to simulate a molotov cocktail until they saw soldiers understood the proper techniques. They then moved on to actual fire and trained as individuals, teams, squads and platoons.
"We learned how and what we must do when the people [at riots] shoot molotov cocktails at us," Demkowicz said. "The guys for the Portuguese units tell us what we must do to protect the body."
The biggest challenge for any multinational cross training is the language barrier, Costa said.
"We usually take the company commanders or platoon leaders to pass the information to their soldiers and we repeat [training] as many times as possible until we see that they understood what we were saying and are performing the techniques correctly," Costa said.
He added that fire phobia training is a vital part of crowd and riot control training because of past incidents in Kosovo.
"It has become very important that the troops know how to react when confronted in a situation like this," Costa said. "Although there aren’t any recent incidents with [molotov cocktails], it's well known that they happened, so it’s better to be prepared."
Portuguese Army Maj. Guoao Ferreira said the day's training was very important because it allows soldiers of different countries to share their tactics, techniques and procedures.
"Each event is another opportunity to learn from each other," Ferreira said.
Instructors teach a universal method for responding to molotov cocktails as an individual, but it can change when moving as a unit, Costa said.
"When we go to collective training, we try to adapt the techniques to the way the CRC team moves or acts as a unit so there will be slight changes, but only in team procedures," Costa said.
For Demkowicz, the day was significant because he had never experienced this type of training. He admitted it was a little scary.
Costa said part of the training is to overcome the fear of fire and the soldiers participating did a good job doing that.
"They were kind of apprehensive in the beginning, but now that they've seen its easier than it looks, they are getting more confident and performing better each time," Costa said.
To overcome the fear of fire, Costa had one simple piece of advice: trust that these methods are tried and true.
"Have the confidence that these techniques have been tried," Costa said. "And at first it might appear very dangerous, but by performing the correct technique, [soldiers] can overcome their fears and be safe even in the middle of fire."