By Lt. Cmdr. Jenn Womble, Commander, Navy Installation Command
PORTSMOUTH, Va. -- Seventeen Reserve Sailors completed their six-week firefighting training at the Southside Regional Fire Academy in Portsmouth, Virginia, April 19 and earned the title of firefighter.
Upon graduation from the academy, these students will join the more than 110 Fire and Emergency Services (F&ES) Reserve Sailors that augment fire stations on installations around the shore enterprise.
"They're going to have everything that they need to operate on a fire ground plus some extra stuff that we've provided to them," said Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Fire Captain Brad Dougherty and lead instructor at the fire academy. "Once they leave here they will be fully functional fire fighters."
In addition to the seventeen Reserve Sailors who attended the academy, there were three active duty Sailors who will become firefighters at the Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress. As a group, these Sailors embraced the academy motto -- Pride, Passion and Performance, all accomplished through purpose.
"Anything we do, we operate in pairs. From day one if they went to the bathroom, if they went to get something from their car they had to operate in teams of two and carry [firefighting] tools with them," said Dougherty. "It builds that accountability and it builds that discipline."
170417-N-CF105-100 PORTSMOUTH, Va. (APRIL 14, 2017) Navy Sailors enter a burning building for Firefighter 1 live fire testing at Southside Regional Fire Academy. (U.S Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/Released)
The instructors had the students wear plain blue clothing during the training so rank wouldn't be a factor and each Sailor would have the opportunity to lead and be led. This method maximized the cohesiveness of the group and each student learned the importance of teamwork and communication for mission success.
"Communications is a major part of firefighting," said Dougherty. "Any line of duty death you read about, communications is always a factor."
According to Aviation Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Eric Schipper, having a desire to serve others is another important factor for mission success. "The idea of helping people out, trying to make people's worst day a little bit better by being there" is why he joined the F&ES team.
Thanks to the training Schipper and his teammates received and the establishment of the F&ES program, they will all have the opportunity to do just that.
"In this program, 99% of our students have zero firefighting background," said Dougherty. "We have got 19 folks who have decided they want to change their career in the civilian world and actually pursue a firefighting career."
Navy Region Mid-Atlantic F&ES hosts training for the Navy each year at Southside Regional Fire Academy. In addition to training the Navy, they also conduct integrated training with local municipalities.
Fire stations on Navy installations are primarily manned by a civilian workforce, with a small contingent of active-duty Sailors. The F&ES Reserve Sailors are fully trained and equipped to provide support when and where needed - especially in the case of a natural or manmade disaster.
The Reserve F&ES program was created in 2007 with 60 Sailors and has grown to over 110 sailors. Over the next few years, an additional 60 billets and a new detachment in the northwest may be added. The Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC), which previously was only available Aviation Boatswain's Mates is now open to all Reserve Sailors.
The Navy Installations Command team is comprised of approximately 3,500 Reservists spanning a wide range of units around the world. These reservists help augment the Navy Installations Command team of active duty Sailors and civilians that are responsible for the operations, maintenance, and quality of life programs to support the Navy's fleet, Sailors, and their families. The Reserve force's flexibility, responsiveness, and ability to serve across a wide spectrum of operations clearly enhances the Navy total force.