99th CES Fire Protection Flight takes home prestigious awards

Maj. Gen. Timothy S. Green, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, poses for a picture with members of the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Protection Flight on the flight line at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 24. During his visit, Green broke the news that the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Protection Flight had won four Air Force-Level Awards for their accomplishments during 2015. The awards included the Air Force Large Fire Department of the Year, Fire Prevention Program of the Year, Firefighter Heroism Award and Air Force Senior Fire Officer of the Year.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The 99th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Protection Flight was awarded four Air Force-Level Awards on Feb. 24 at Nellis AFB, for their accomplishments during 2015.
The awards included the Air Force Large Fire Department of the Year, Fire Prevention Program of the Year, Firefighter Heroism Award and Air Force Senior Fire Officer of the Year.
The men and women of the 99th CES Fire Protection Flight are charged with keeping the Nellis and Creech AFB communities safe, protecting aircraft operations, building and wildland fire response, hazardous materials emergencies and medical response and were recognized for the work they did during 2015.
“The number one mission is to protect the aircraft mission,” said John Thompson, 99th CES fire chief. “That includes Nellis AFB with all the aircraft and Creech AFB with all the remotely piloted aircraft. Also, we are responsible for structural firefighting, hazmat response, medical response and all other hazards.”
The Air Force Fire Department of the Year Award takes into account all aspects of the fire department; management, operations, training, fire prevention and safety. The scoring looks at: emergency response, firefighter awards, customer outreach, public educations, training, innovation and initiative.
The Nellis-Creech fire department is the third busiest fire department in the Air Force by call volume as they safely mitigated 1,600 emergencies in the 2015 calendar year.
“On Nellis AFB there are approximately 150 planes assigned, and then you have 100 to 150 plus planes coming in for each Red Flag and other major exercises that take place at Nellis AFB,” said Thompson. “My estimate would be an extra 2,000 planes that come in that we are responsible for protecting during the 20 or so Large Force Exercises hosted by Nellis each year. We respond to anything from a standard in-flight emergency for hydraulic failure or engine malfunction to actual aircraft fires and crashes, we do it all.”
The Creech AFB mission protection played a huge role in winning the 2015 Air Force large Fire Department of the Year award. “We provided protection of the 526 pilots at Creech and we provide fire protection for them and the airfield,” said Thompson. “Understanding the Creech mission, a lot of those pilots are flying combat missions half way around the world with remotely piloted aircraft. They flew over 209,000 hours and 12,300 combat sorties in 2015. We kept them safe while they prosecuted 22,900 enemy targets. By us being there to provide medical and fire protection for the building the pilot sits in is how we feel we help enable those missions to go on.”
The factors that are looked at for the Air Force Fire Prevention of the Year Award are inspections, engineering and code enforcement as well as innovation of community and public education programs. Four fire inspectors and one assistant fire chief make up the fire inspection team and they are responsible for running the largest fire prevention program in Air Combat Command.
“Our fire prevention section trained 12,000 people at Nellis and Creech on how to use fire extinguishers,” said Thompson. “In 2015 we had 33 total fires at Nellis and Creech AFB. People we trained put out seven building fires and nine aircraft fires with fire extinguishers before firefighters even got there. That’s a testament to our fire prevention and training program. The fact that the people we trained are able to just run over and pick up a fire extinguisher and do what we taught them to do shows how successful the training program is.
“Those nine aircraft had a total value of $491.6 million. By those maintainers using the fire prevention skills they learned through the fire prevention program, they limited the damage to only about $600,000 and saved $490 million in the process.”
“The fire prevention section is also responsible for the creation of the military family housing fire safety training program,” said Thompson. “It’s a program that requires newcomers to the base who are going to live in military family housing to take the fire prevention training and pass a test before they are issued the keys to their house. We like to think that the program has played a significant role in the fact that there hasn’t been a house fire on Nellis AFB since 2011, which is pretty impressive.”
Winning the award meant a lot to the fire department and the members of the fire prevention section.
“It’s nice to see your work come to fruition and be recognized for the hard work the team puts in,” said Rob Tello, 99th CES fire inspector.
Senior Master Sgt. Chancey Kruger, 99th CES deputy fire chief, won the Air Force Senior Fire Officer of the Year Award.
Kruger won the award for his job performance, accomplishments, technical competence, initiative and resourcefulness while on the job.
“I was beside myself when I found out that I won,” said Kruger. “I didn’t think I had won. I’m very humbled to have received this award because I feel that there are better people than I am who haven’t received this award. I had some great mentorship from retired and active duty military members and a great team effort that helped me win this award.”
The members of the 99th Fire Protection Flight had no idea that they had won these awards until Maj. Gen. Timothy S. Green, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, broke the news during his visit on Feb. 24.
“After he made those announcements the crew was pretty boisterous and there was a lot of high-fives going around,” said Thompson. “It was a cool day to be a Nellis-Creech firefighter.”
The success of the 99th CES Fire Protection Flight can be attributed to having a well-trained, disciplined, and motivated team that shows pride and excellence in their craft.
“It all has to come together,” said Thompson. “You have to have well trained firefighters and effective state-of-the-art equipment. The training is a huge part of the award and a huge part in everything that we do. To say that you are the best of the best and there is no fire department in the Air Force better than you at a particular moment, that’s a pretty cool feeling.”
“Winning four out of eight awards is pretty cool. I’ve been around for a long time and I don’t know if that has ever happened before.”
The four Air Force Level Awards that the 99th CES Fire Protection Flight won go along with the already impressive five ACC awards they earned earlier this year. They will be competing in March for Department of Defense level awards.

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