Airfield Fire Controllers at Middle East Base
2 February 2016
It may be winter in the Middle East but the heat is still on for Australian and British military fire-fighters located in the Gulf region.
Royal Australian Air Force personnel assigned to the Combat Support Unit (CSU) are working with their Royal Air Force partners from Number 906 Expeditionary Air Wing at the major command and support base which supports Australian and British operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sergeant (Sgt) Marty Whiley, of CSU, is on his fourth rotation to the Middle East and said the airfield fire controllers were responsible for all coalition aircraft landing and taking-off from the busy base.
"There are eight personnel on each crew split between the Australians and British airmen," he said.
"We rotate between the two 12-hour shifts and support the host nation's fire department when needed.
"Our daily routine includes checking our equipment is serviceable and we are on standby for any emergency."
Sgt Wiley said the crews worked well together when they responded to incidents.
"Of course there is some Aussie/Pom banter in the fire section, but our training is similar and we also learn a lot from each other," he said.
"One of the hardest things is the language barrier with the host nation, but when the crash alarm sounds an interpreter is always on hand."
Corporal (Cpl) Tobin Coyle, of CSU, is the structural fire controller and said he was the first responder on the scene for domestic events such as building fires, car crashes or hazardous materials incidents.
"My responsibilities include making the initial assessment at an incident site and deciding if I need assistance from the crew on standby," he said.
"It is a new experience to work without a full crew or a fire truck.
"I need to do a lot of work by myself including the initial assessment and setup at incident scenes."
Cpl Coyle said stepping into the role of fire controller had given him a fantastic opportunity to improve his vocational skills.
"My tasks could include assessing building entry points, isolating power, preparing hose lines and providing immediate first-aid to casualties before help arrives," he said.
"I have also learnt a lot more about the base including how the alarm networks and the fire suppression systems work.
"This is my second deployment to the Middle East, but I am glad to be back and working with the Brits again."