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North Carolina National Guard
Raleigh, NC, US

Gear Up: Firefighters gauge their skills during annual training


Story by Spc. Kelly Widner

Gear Up: Firefighters gauge their skills during annual training FORT A.P. HILL, Va – Beginning a new day of training, the North Carolina Army National Guard’s 677th Firefighting Team held a joint training exercise involving the Fort A.P. Hill Fire Department here on April 22, 2015.

Assistant Chief Mark Dodson, with the Fort A.P. Hill Fire Department began the training exercise by taking the Soldiers and crew around the exterior and interior of a downed C-130 aircraft.

“The purpose of the training is to instruct them of standard egressing procedures, overall hazards and shut down procedures for a C-130 aircraft,” said Dodson.

“Egress training does not involve any firefighting,” said Staff Sgt. James Graf with the 677th Fire Fighting Team.

“It is how the aircraft operates, how rescuers need to approach the aircraft, evacuate passengers and take control of the aircraft,” said Graf.

During a normal drill weekend, the 677 Fire Fighting Team does not have access to training props such as a downed C-130 to walk through and practice evacuating passengers who may or may not be trapped inside the aircraft.

“We may have pictures and power points on drill weekend, but now we can actually apply it,” said Graf.

Annual training periods allows the fire- fighting team to collectively prepare to react to a real world incident or accident as well as hone their emergency response techniques.

The 677th Fire Fighting Team arrived at Fort A.P. Hill on April 11, 2015 and since then they have conducted confined space training, air-consumption, vehicle fires and vehicle extraction.

Since arriving at Fort A.P. Hill the fire-fighting team has conducted confined space training, air-consumption training, vehicle fire and extraction training.

“All of us are certified in confined space rescues where we rescue victims from a confined hazardous environment,” said Sgt. William Capps assigned to the 677th Fire Fighting Team. “We train to complete the mission quickly and efficiently.”

The Soldier’s limits were tested during an air-consumption training where they were instructed to put on their fire fight suits with oxygen breathing apparatus and perform many strenuous activities, which included carrying two pieces of heavy equipment, lifting and positioning a ladder, climbing several flights of stairs and dragging a dummy several feet before restarting the course until running out of oxygen in order to test each Soldier’s performance time.

“Being a fire fighter is about helping people and having a job where things are different every day,” said Dodson. “Where you can go from sitting behind a desk, to responding to sirens and being prepared to accomplish that mission.”

Although the firefighting team consists of only nine Soldiers, each member is a full-time emergency responder in the civilian work force.

“We have to meet the same standards as any fire department,” said Graf, “The only difference is that we’re green.”

The 677th is one of two fire-fighting teams assigned to the North Carolina Army National Guard. Both of these teams are assigned to companies within the 449th Theater Aviation Brigade. These teams are critical assets to the NCARNG’s aviation community.

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