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CES officers step into firefighters’ world

Company Grade Officers from the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron descend a staircase during a firefighter immersion event, May 18, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The immersion was intended to give junior officers in the CES a better understanding of Vandenberg’s Fire Department, and began with an in-depth briefing followed by the opportunity to experience an obstacle course, known as the Firefighter Combat Challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps/Released)

Company Grade Officers from the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron descend a staircase during a firefighter immersion event, May 18, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The immersion was intended to give junior officers in the CES a better understanding of Vandenberg’s Fire Department, and began with an in-depth briefing followed by the opportunity to experience an obstacle course, known as the Firefighter Combat Challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps/Released)

1st Lt. Morgan Grohol, 30th Mission Support Group executive officer, maneuvers a dummy through an obstacle as part of a firefighter immersion event, May 18, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The immersion was intended to give junior officers in the CES a better understanding of Vandenberg’s Fire Department, and began with an in-depth briefing followed by the opportunity to experience an obstacle course, known as the Firefighter Combat Challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps/Released)

1st Lt. Morgan Grohol, 30th Mission Support Group executive officer, maneuvers a dummy through an obstacle as part of a firefighter immersion event, May 18, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The immersion was intended to give junior officers in the CES a better understanding of Vandenberg’s Fire Department, and began with an in-depth briefing followed by the opportunity to experience an obstacle course, known as the Firefighter Combat Challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps/Released)

2nd Lt. Marcel Castillo, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron project programmer, maneuvers through an obstacle during a firefighter immersion event, May 18, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The immersion was intended to give junior officers in the CES a better understanding of Vandenberg’s Fire Department, and began with an in-depth briefing followed by the opportunity to experience an obstacle course, known as the Firefighter Combat Challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps/Released)

2nd Lt. Marcel Castillo, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron project programmer, maneuvers through an obstacle during a firefighter immersion event, May 18, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The immersion was intended to give junior officers in the CES a better understanding of Vandenberg’s Fire Department, and began with an in-depth briefing followed by the opportunity to experience an obstacle course, known as the Firefighter Combat Challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Company Grade Officers from the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron recently received an immersive look into the daily operations of base firefighters, here, May 18.

The immersion began with an in-depth briefing followed by the opportunity to experience an obstacle course, known as the Firefighter Combat Challenge.

“The CGO fire department immersion is an extensive exposure in the life of a USAF firefighter,” said Master Sgt. Benjamin Powell, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron fire and emergency services readiness division chief. “The purpose is to plant the seed for future fire marshals, or CE commanders, or future policy making career officers. They received a briefing in the morning, followed by a hands-on portion in the afternoon. Also, they will spend a 24-hour shift with our firefighters, and experience an actual day-in-the-life scenario.”

For participants, the occasion proved to be an invaluable experience that has the potential to enhance future leadership decisions -- and will not soon be forgotten.

“Unfortunately, we don’t typically get to see the day-to-day operations within the fire department,” said 2nd Lt. Marcel Castillo, 30th CES project programmer. “With this, we were able to come out and immerse ourselves into their world. It’s crucial that as CES officers, we understand all aspects of the squadron. Something like this takes a lot of coordination, and I’m very grateful to the firedogs for setting this up. It really meant a lot to me.”

In addition to gaining further knowledge on general fire operations, the officers were afforded the unique opportunity to work with Vandenberg’s elite Firefighter Combat Challenge team members, who walked them through the same obstacle course they tackle during competitions. Simulating the physical rigors of structural firefighting, the five-event obstacle course was deemed the toughest two minutes in sports, by ESPN. 

“It really helps build teamwork,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Absher, 30th CES north battalion chief and firefighter combat challenge team member. “It’s so physically demanding and it shows people how important it is to encourage one another not just during an obstacle like this one, but even when they go back into their work centers. It also helps build a good report between them as CES leaders and us as the firefighters.”

By allowing junior officers the chance to step into the boots of their firefighters, the CES creates an environment conducive to informed decision making, and allows the Air Force to execute its priority of taking care of its most valuable resource – the Airmen.

“It really helps us understand what their challenges are, what their training is like and what equipment they need,” said 1st Lt. Morgan Grohol, 30th Mission Support Group executive officer. “That way, we know how to better take care of them. The CES has multiple flights, but fire is such a huge part of the squadron. It’s hard to be an effective leader if we aren’t familiar with all our organizations.”