By Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris
50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Eleven days after the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that took the lives of 343 New York firefighters, one of the Big Apple's bravest brought his expertise – and a new fire engine – to the International Zone Fire Station.
Maj. David Melendez, director of Public Safety, Joint Area Support Group - Central, and other coalition members visited the station, Sept. 22, 2008, to deliver the European-style vehicle to IZ Fire Station Chief Muneer Al-Hamdanee.
Part of public safety's mission is to help bring equipment into the IZ for Iraqi use, according to Melendez. This truck is one of several escorted into the IZ since the station's inception in January.
The new Sides-brand fire truck features a telescoping and articulating rescue-ladder platform that will compliment the current fleet by meeting one of the IZ Fire Station's special needs.
"They've had a lot of hi-rise fires, and this is going to help them. This adds to their firefighting capabilities; it's very versatile," explained Melendez.
"This is the first time we've had this type of truck in here and we are very happy," said Hamdanee through an interpreter.
Hamdanee and the coalition team also discussed expanding the IZ Fire Station mission into one of national importance.
"We're looking to make this a national academy," said Melendez. A preliminary class of a dozen students is scheduled to be held in October.
"We're going to do a train-the-trainer at first," explained Melendez, who noted that despite cultural and language barriers, the coalition team and Iraqi firefighters have no problem communicating when it comes to their job.
"We talk the same lingo," he said of his Iraqi brethren. "I couldn't ask for a better mission."
Hamdanee seemed to share Melendez' enthusiasm.
"I thank you because you're helping the Iraqi people," he told the coalition team.