GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The 403rd Civil Engineer Squadron undergoes annual fire safety training at a facility near the Gulfport Biloxi International Airport.
Sunday, the squadron was put to the test on an aircraft engulfed in flames. In light of the recent fatal helicopter crash in Harrison County, this training hits a little closer to home than on a normal basis.
With the push of a button real flames engulfed the empty fuselage of a mock aircraft. This training simulates what would happen in the event of an actual aircraft fire.
The 403rd Civil Engineer Squadron would arrive on the scene and immediately get to work using their fire trucks known as Crash Vehicles. These vehicles have water turrets mounted to the front that are controlled from inside the cab.
"What they do is come in, make an initial attack knock down the fire, and the main purpose is if there are any souls on board we want to set up an egress path so we can pull them off," said Senior Master Sergeant, Kermit Watson.
It's possible that the 403rd could eventually use these skills in deployment situations, but for now it's just a matter of getting the motions committed to memory. Watson said in the real world, each situation is different, but knowing the basic steps could be the difference between life and death.
"That's what this training is for. It better helps us to mitigate whatever situation we have," said Watson.
In those situations, Crew Chief, Malcolm Polk, would be the one making the decisions.
"It better gives us an understanding of what we could face when we arrive on scene," said Polk.
According to Polk, the training and the job can sometimes be a bit demanding, but he doesn't think of it that way.
"I feel like I can save lives. You know, sometimes the unexpected does happen, and I feel like if I'm trained, I can make a difference by saving somebody's life," said Polk.
The 403rd trains annually on not only aircraft, but also structure fires.