Come along to fire school and see how the US military trains elite firefighters

Airman magazine fire schoolUS Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young JrThree students assigned to the 312th Training Squadron battle a fire during a crash recovery training scenario at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, Oct. 15, 2015. During crash recovery training, students learn how to manage a fire and preserve some of the military’s most highly coveted aircraft in case of emergency fire situations.

“Train as if someone’s life depends on it, because it does.” — Department of Defence Fire Academy

In the military, firefighters face unique challenges of needing to quickly and effectively respond to the risks posed by fires that could affect planes, machinery, and munitions.

Each year 2,500 students from the sister service branches train at the Louis F. Garland Fire Academy, located at Goodfellow Air Force Base, in order to become certified Department of Defence firefighters.

Every year, nearly 2,500 students attend the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Airmen assigned to the 312th Training Squadron, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, stand in a weekend formation prior to a dorm inspection, Oct. 15, 2015.

The students come from across the military, and firefighters of different military branches train alongside each other.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Bethany Parolin and Airman 1st Class Jessica King, 312th Training Squadron, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, talk about an upcoming training scenario during training at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, Oct. 16, 2015.

The training program at the academy follows the standards of the National Fire Protection Association, with additional information tailored towards military needs.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Airmen assigned to the 312th Training Squadron, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, enjoy a moment during early morning vehicle fire training, Oct. 16, 2015.

The training program follows three blocks over 68 training days.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Staff Sgt. Alexander Salamacha, Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, fire fighting instructor, teaches students how to assemble and wear equipment during block one of training, Oct. 15, 2015.

Block one teaches students firefighting basics, such as how to properly use equipment and how to create ventilation.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tommie Zanders Jr., 312th Training Squadron, fire fighter instructor, teaches students how to control a fire during a lesson the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, Oct. 15, 2015. During liquid fire training, the students rotate through 3-man iterations of low and high fires while moving through water.

Block two continues with that information, while also developing more specialised knowledge on how to fight various types of fires, how to make use of water supplies, and how to best communicate with the rest of the team.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Bethany Parolin, 312th Training Squadron, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, carries a fire hose for nearly 50 yards during training at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, Oct. 15, 2015.

In the third block, students begin working towards the Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) certificate.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Omar Moore, 312th Training Squadron, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, explains vehicle extraction to student fire fighters at the Department of Defence Louis F. Garland Fire Academy, Oct. 16, 2015.

Throughout the training, the students have to learn to overcome their fears and their instincts of self-preservation.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Three military students assigned to the 312th Training Squadron battle a fire during a liquid fire scenario at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, Oct. 19, 2015.

'I think it takes a lot of courage, especially for 18-19 year olds coming out of high school,' Marine Corps Staff Sgt. George Preen, an instructor in block three of the course, told Airman Magazine. 'We're teaching them to do something that's basically the opposite of their normal instinct, which is (to flee from danger). We're essentially trying to reprogram them to go in and do the right thing.'

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Military students assigned to the 312th Training Squadron, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, battle a fire inside of an aircraft during training, Oct. 16, 2015.

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And within training, students do receive plenty of hands-on exercises.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Military students assigned to the 312th Training Squadron, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, battle a fire inside of an aircraft, Oct. 16, 2015.

The firefighters routinely train in full gear, to adjust to the weight of their suits.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Fire fighting students assigned to the 312th Training Squadron, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, carry about 20 pounds of gear after a morning of training at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, Oct. 15, 2015.

And the academy simulates actual fires that the students could face in their line of work.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Three military students assigned to the 312th Training Squadron battle a fire during a liquid fire scenario at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, Oct. 15, 2015. During liquid fire training, the students rotate through 3-man iterations of low and high fires while moving through water.

Among the unique challenges that the students must train for are crash recovery situations, in which firefighters must put out fires on aircraft and try to salvage whatever is possible.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Three students assigned to the 312th Training Squadron battle a fire during a crash recovery training scenario at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, Oct. 15, 2015. During crash recovery training, students learn how to manage a fire and preserve some of the military's most highly coveted aircraft in case of emergency fire situations.

But despite the title, firefighters are not limited to just fighting flames.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Three students assigned to the 312th Training Squadron battle a fire during a crash recovery training scenario at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, Oct. 15, 2015. During crash recovery training, students learn how to manage a fire and preserve some of the military's most highly coveted aircraft in case of emergency fire situations.

Aproximately 70% of the calls that DoD firefighters respond to are medical, necessitating the students to have a large base of expertise.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr
Three students assigned to the 312th Training Squadron battle a fire during a crash recovery training scenario at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defence Fire Academy, Oct. 15, 2015. During crash recovery training, students learn how to manage a fire and preserve some of the military's most highly coveted aircraft in case of emergency fire situations.

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