NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — As aircraft engines throttle up for Red Flag, so does the 99th Civil Engineering Squadron Fire Department.
Daily operations for the 99th CES firefighters include responding to any airfield or base emergencies, hazmat response, technical rescue and medical aid, but with a Red Flag exercise the emergency calls are increased.
“On a normal duty operation day, our call volume varies, it could be one or it could be a dozen [calls]; whereas during Red Flag it will double or even triple our call volume,” said Tech Sgt. Thomas Ryan, 99th CES Fire Department assistant chief of operations.
With Red Flag having participants from all over the world, the firefighters have to get acquainted with unfamiliar aircraft in case there is an in-flight emergency or accident.
“We are responsible for understanding the hazards and operations of all the aircraft that belong in the Department of Defense,” Ryan said. “When you have a Red Flag, you bring in foreign aircraft that we are responsible to know how to shut down and how to egress, and it’s a lot of added knowledge that we have to prepare to use.”
Experiences obtained from Red Flag exercises will always be remembered by participants.
“Whenever we get transient aircraft, they are usually U.S. Air Force aircraft so we know what to say to people, how the aircraft works and we can talk to their maintainers,” said Staff Sgt. Xavier Farms, 99th CES firefighter. “With Red Flag we get joint aircraft, and we usually have a language barrier and we don’t know how they operate and how they respond.”
With the influx of military members that participate in Red Flag, safety is the number one priority to firefighters. In-flight emergencies can occur and firefighters prepare for those calls.
“People look forward to us getting there to help them out,” Farms said. “We’ve seen where aircraft come in and whenever we get there to see if everything is good you can just see the sigh of relief.”
As more and more aircraft participate in Red Flag exercises, the 99th CES Fire Department continuously prepare for anything that may come their way.