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JBLM Fire & Emergency Services fosters community partnerships

Joshua Olsen, JBLM Fire & Emergency Services station 105 captain, briefs West Pierce Fire & Rescue during a training event at JBLM, March 20, 2023. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Callie Norton

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD -Joint Base Lewis-McChord Fire and Emergency Services hosted a training for local off-installation partners, here, March 20-31, 2023.

Over the course of two weeks, training sessions are being held for more than seven local fire departments. The goal of the training is to partner with and educate local fire stations on the basics of the C-17 Globemaster III, including crew access, aircraft shutdown and emergency procedures.

"This training is very important," said David Wilhelm, JBLM Fire & Emergency Services station 105 assistant chief of training. "We've been trying for several years to get this training on the books. COVID-19 set us back for a couple years, but to me this training is important not only for the upcoming air show, but also for every day flying operations."

Firefighters from Pierce and Thurston Counties participated in the familiarization of the C-17 in preparation for the upcoming JBLM Airshow and Warrior Expo, hosted by the joint base this summer.

"We wanted them to have an idea of our processes and procedures so they know what could happen," said Joshua Olsen, a JBLM Fire & Emergency Services station captain. "This way, we can all get on the same page regarding what steps need to be taken if unfortunately, something does happen."

Familiarization training for firefighters from Pierce and Thurston Counties has been a long time coming as C-17s from McChord Field fly over both counties on a daily basis.

"We hope nothing ever happens," Wilhelm said. "But the majority of aircraft accidents don't come down on a nice level runway or parking apron or anything near a military installation. If they have an issue, they may go down anywhere."

West Pierce Fire & Rescue was the first department to participate in the training on Monday, March 20, 2023. They learned about a variety of safety and emergency features on the C-17 such as access in and out of the aircraft, how to shut the aircraft down and where to locate the crew members.

"This knowledge prepares the departments to be able to give the crew the best chance of survivability and rescue them, as well as put the fire out and avoid the dangerous areas of the aircraft," Wilhelm said.

JBLM Fire & Emergency Services often work hand-in-hand with Pierce and Thurston County fire stations. The I-5 freeway, which runs along the fence line of JBLM, keeps all local departments very busy.

"The mutual aid relationships and joint partnerships between the on base and off base first responders is huge," Wilhelm said. "This training makes those partnerships that much stronger."

During the upcoming JBLM Airshow & Warrior Expo, July 15-17, West Pierce Fire & Rescue will be on sight to provide assistance for the busy weekend.

"Considering the potential to have upwards of a quarter million people on base during the air show, they will bring vehicles on base and we will likely use them a lot for medical needs, such as heat-related illnesses," said Olsen. "We won't be able to handle it alone."

Familiarization of the C-17 will increase capabilities among local municipalities and be useful for emergencies far beyond the air show.

"This training is invaluable, not just because of the upcoming air show, but for our ongoing partnership with JBLM," said Matt Wagner, West Pierce Fire & Rescue battalion chief. "It's likely that if these jets need assistance, it won't be on JBLM property, so we will need to be ready to respond quickly and efficiently."

Continuing to strengthen partnerships like this is exactly what will continue setting the pace for America's Airlift Wing, and ensuring mission success anytime, anywhere.

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