Army Firefighters Mobilize For Homeland Security

Members of the 683rd Engineering Detachment Firefighters spent Friday loading tons of office equipment, vehicles and rescue gear. They're also taking care of some last-minute business at the reserve headquarters in Pascagoula.

Lt. Jonathan Aplin is the detachment commander. He said "We're finishing up personal things, such as making sure that our families are taken care of while we're gone. Our personal belongings were shipped out yesterday".

At any moment, the 16 men and four women can be called upon to deploy to other parts of the country or somewhere overseas. Their mission is use their fire fighting skills in support of Homeland Security.

Aplin said "We can do anything ranging from airport search and rescue. We can provide fire services for ammo points and fuel dumps. We can also support basically anything that has to do with fire service".

Aplin said the group can respond to terrorist attacks like the World Trade Center disaster. He said "Numerous firefighters were involved in that situation where there was mass amounts of destruction and fire. It took a lot of firefighters and paramedics to go in, and put out the fires and save people's lives. That's what we specialize in".

683rd Engineering Member Kenny Cumbest said "I think everybody should do something to support their country.  I have no complaints".

As part of their mobilization, the troops have to prepare their bodies and their minds for the job. Beatrice Williams said "Physically, it's pretty much OK. Everyone in the unit has to pretty much stay in shape. Emotionally, it's kind of hard, but we learn to deal with it".

The Army firefighters will spend at least a year on assignment, but they're ready to do their duty. Aplin said "We're actually kind of excited, believe it or not. This is something they've been training to do for a long time".

The Army firefighters could leave as early as this weekend for Fort Campbell in Kentucky for more training. After that, they'll be sent to an undisclosed location.