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On the ropes: firefighters complete advanced rescue course

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Colorful ropes, knots and pulleys squeak, twist and grip as four firefighters horizontally hang 45 feet in the air.  They are midway through a timed four-story vertical climb and descent on the training tower. This is just a morning training session of the Department of Defense’s rescue technician course.

Approximately a dozen Air Force firefighters took on the month-long advanced training course held here.  Eglin firefighters made up most of the class.  There were also firefighters from the 23rd Wing at Moody AFB, Georgia and the 612th Air Base Squadron, Soto Cano AB, Honduras.

The course, conducted by a DoD Fire Academy mobile training team, provides firefighters hands-on experience in rope types, knot-tying, pulley systems, repelling, moving in confined spaces and high elevation rescue among many others. 

The training also allows attendees to try out new and top of the line equipment that could be of use in their own fire stations.

The trainees have to accomplish various scenarios individually and as a team to meet timed objectives.  A final exercise requires the trainees to incorporate all they have learned to rescue a simulated victim and safely extract them from an elevated position.

Completing the course, the firefighters earn an International Fire Service Accreditation Congress certification, a nationally recognized rescue technician standard.

A larger Academy goal of the course is for the trainees to pass along their new knowledge to other firefighters.   

“This is such a technical skill set that if it isn’t used regularly it can be easily lost,” Tech. Sgt. Trevor Williams, a DOD Fire Academy instructor.

With nine Eglin firefighters in the class, Williams said he believes there is a stronger likelihood of retention of the new skills here.

This is the third time the 96th Test Wing hosted the training.  Eglin’s 20-month-old structural live fire facility and confined space trainer were used during the various phases and training scenarios.

For Eglin responders who attended, it increases their response capabilities by 10% both on and off the installation, according to the base fire department.

“It’s made me more confident,” said Brandon Rowell, 96th Civil Engineer Squadron and recent Air Force Materiel Command civilian firefighter of the year.  “It’s given me the confidence that if I find myself in an emergency similar to this training, I have the skills now to respond accordingly and help resolve the situation.”

Approximately 220 firefighters graduate from the DOD course in the U.S. annually.