Firefighters first of their kind at COS Garry Owen
Story and photos by Sgt. Kimberly Johnson
196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
CONTINGENCY OPERATING STATION GARRY OWEN, Iraq — U.S. Army firefighters stand ready to answer the call of duty to ensure the safety of fellow service members 24 hours per day at Contingency Operating Station Garry Owen, Iraq.
Since COS Garry Owen opened, there has been a need for a professional firefighting team, safety enforcement team and fire marshal training. The 60th Ordnance Company, 110th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 224th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), now fills those voids after having moved from Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq, earlier this year.
“The original mission started out as airfield protection and developed into a multi-faceted inspection program,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Harris, fire chief with the 60th Ord. Co. and a Memphis, Tenn., native. “We provide structural protection, airfield protection and safety protection for COS Garry Owen and surrounding areas.”
Because the Soldiers with the 60th Ord. Co. were the first firefighters on COS Garry Owen, they had to start from the ground up. They used more than 3,000 square feet of lumber and several hours of manpower to build their firehouse, which includes living quarters, overhead cover for the fire trucks and a gym.
When the men are not fighting fires, they are enhancing their skills with the Army Correspondence Course Program, physical fitness training and conducting different emergency response scenarios such as fire rescue in complete blindness—turning off all the lights inside the firehouse, masking trainees’ eyes and sending them into the building, simulating low visibility in smoky conditions.
When the firefighters conduct fitness training, they wear full fire-protection gear, which adds about sixty pounds, Harris said.
“Upon establishing (COS) Garry Owen, they (the firefighters) had a couple of fires here,” Harris said. “They were able to mitigate the fires, but they quickly realized the need for trained professionals to do the job.”
Because firefighters at COS Garry Owen are on call 24 hours per day, they use their firehouse as a training ground, so if an emergency call comes in, they are ready to take action at a moment’s notice.
“Our (training and preparation) is going to be more on the fire-side, in making sure all our equipment is good to go so when we get on the scene, everything is in top shape to complete our mission,” said Spc. Christopher Henderson, a firefighter with the 60th Ord. Co.
Not only are the firefighters at COS Garry Owen there to fight fires, they are called upon to help prevent fires as well. A fire-safety program to inspect the living areas was established by the fire crew. In addition to the safety program, they headed a fire marshal training program in order to train unit representatives how to prevent fires at COS Garry Owen.
“Fortunately for us, we’ve established a fire-prevention program to help mitigate some of the problems, because no fire is a good fire,” Harris said. “With the different voltage and different currents we run here on COS Garry Owen, anything can cause a spark. Clothing around the outlets can cause a spark. One spark on a piece of dry clothing, with the heat, can set a tent up in a matter of seconds.”
The fire crew conducts safety inspections prior to the tenants moving into the buildings or tents and gives another inspection a week later. They also do monthly inspections and record their findings of violations. When a violation is found, the safety inspectors give a two-week grace period to fix the problem, Harris said.
Harris said because of the inspections, Soldiers have begun to adapt to safer methods of organizing their living areas.
With fire-prevention and safety programs in place, the firefighters can focus on their main mission of fighting fires when they arise. It takes everyone to do their part for safety, Harris said.
The rewards can be few and far between or they can be plentiful. No one says “hey great job because there was no fire,” Henderson said.
“We are the (unsung) heroes,” Harris said. “A lot of time we train around the station. People think we just sit around the station waiting for a fire. They do not realize the importance of firefighting until there’s a need for it. After there’s a need for firefighting, we get a pat on the back and then go back to being the (unsung) heroes.”
Spc. Chase Snodgrass, a firefighter with the 60th Ordnance Company, 110th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 224th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a Spencer, Ind., native, runs with a fire hose June 11 during physical fitness training at Contingency Operating Station Garry Owen, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Johnson)
Spc. Chase Snodgrass, a firefighter with the 60th Ordnance Company, 110th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 224th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a Spencer, Ind., native, pulls a weighted fire hose June 11 during training at Contingency Operating Station Garry Owen, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Johnson)