ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England --
48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters conducted a confined-space training at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. The one day exercise consisted of executing entry, exit and retrieval procedures during simulated confined-space emergencies.
Prior to May 2018, confined-space rescue was a primary responsibility of the 56th Rescue Squadron. Since the relocation of the 56th RQS to Italy on May 15, the 48th CES fire department has stepped-in to assume the responsibilities as the primary response asset for rescue concerns on base.
“Confined space rescue has always been a part of our operations,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Wittwer, a 48th CES firefighter. “With the departure of the 56th RQS, we are ready to fulfill any vital responsibilities for the mission.”
Rescue training techniques conducted by the fire department must adhere to Occupational Health and Safety Administration approved entry procedures to ensure personnel and patient safety.
Additionally, the Ministry of Defense has very thorough procedures for both on and off base incidents that must be observed to make a confined space rescue entry possible. For example, a rescue team must be on site should something go wrong with the entry team.
“There are a lot of technical components involved in order to be effective with confined space rescue and retrieval,” Wittwer said. “If we’re not proficient on this, we risk injury to ourselves and our patients.”
Since the rescue squadron’s departure, the 48th CES fire department has taken an active approach in standard readiness capabilities through quarterly training to maintain continuity regardless of the influx of inbound and outbound Airmen, ensuring minimal gaps in readiness.
“We are in the prevention, response and rescue business of serving both RAF Lakenheath and the off-base community,” said Master Sgt. Roscoe Mays, a 48th fire security officer and instructor. “We are here to ensure that if someone has a bad day or something doesn’t go right, we are able to execute our mission and get people out of harm’s way.”