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Kirkuk firefighters train Iraqis

by Tech. Sgt. J. LaVoie
506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

8/29/2005 - KIRKUK AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- In order to stabilize Iraq, coalition forces must teach Iraqis the skills they need to stand on their own.

The firefighters of the 506th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron here are doing their part in this important mission by teaching Iraqis first aid and basic firefighting skills.

“Seeing them progress from very little knowledge to being able to attack and extinguish a fire at the end training, and the gratitude they had for our assistance was one of the most rewarding times in my career,” said Staff Sgt. Ben Donnerstag, a 506th ECES firefighter. “I was glad to be able to share my knowledge with the Iraqi firefighters so I could help them to be better trained in helping their fellow countrymen and women in the event of an emergency.”

It is especially important for these Iraqis to learn these skills because they are part of the unit that protects the oil pipeline. Kirkuk sits on top of 6.4 percent of the world’s oil supply. Successfully transporting that oil via pipeline to refineries in Bayji and Baghdad is critical to their economy.

“I will use this class to help my friends and help the Iraqi people,” said Mudhafer, an oil protection force driver, through a translator. “I want to say ‘thank you’ for the fire department’s help and for the information.”

The class covered basic first aid, cardio pulmonary resuscitation and firefighting principles and techniques.

“We cover as much in three days as they cover in six weeks at home. It’s a crash course,” said Master Sgt. Terry Edwards, 50th ECES deputy fire chief. “They are very eager to learn and they pick the information up quickly. They learn enough about firefighting to keep them from getting hurt.”

The class is not only about first aid and firefighting, it is about giving the Iraqis a helping hand.

“It provides them with options and opens a door for them to see what they can do. We want to give them a sense of well-being,” said Tech. Sgt. Norman Harrington of the 506th ECES. “We do this training so they can do for themselves. It will allow them to get back on their feet.”

The Iraqis are not the only ones taking something away from this class.

“I have really learned a lot from working with Iraqi firefighters,” said Tech. Sgt. Clifford Snyder, of the 506th ECES. “Before I came over here I was under the impression we were not wanted here, but now I realize they are very appreciative of everything we are doing for them. They want the opportunity to work and earn a living just like anybody.”

The fire department’s Airmen also received a newfound respect for these trainees, many of whom are targeted just for attending this type of training.

“They are very eager to learn,” said Staff Sgt. Jerry Carter Sr. of the 506th ECES. “These Iraqi men put their lives on the line just by coming to this base to get the training they need; I have a great deal of respect for their courage."

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