Increasing Interoperability: 442nd AF Reservist Unit Deploys to NAVSTA Rota Fire Department

  • Published
  • By Courtney Pollock
  • NAVSTA Rota Public Affairs

Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota Fire and Emergency Services (F&ES) recently hosted 442nd Air Force Reserve unit to fulfill their reserve duty as well as complete annual training requirements, March 7-19, 2022. This deployment provided a unique opportunity between two services to integrate and train together. 

“We currently train on a regular basis with Moron F&ES and the Spanish Navy bomberos, but this is significant because it is the first time we've had this level of interoperability with any branch of service outside of the Navy F&ES,” said Thomas Wiley, training chief for NAVSTA Rota F&ES.

Early in the planning stage, Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Johnson, 442nd’s fire chief, contacted Wiley regarding training opportunities in Rota during their deployment to Moron Air Base near Seville, Spain. It was later decided that it would be more advantageous for the unit to stay in Rota to maximize training while minimizing travel time. This would also allow the reserve unit to augment Rota’s current manning allowing the local command to reduce overtime hours, provide time off for military firefighters, and allow additional Rota personnel to complete the emergency medical technician course.

“I think I speak for everyone that this has been one of the most unique experiences an Air Force firefighter can have,” said Johnson. “The opportunity to integrate with the Navy is something most of us do not get to experience.”

This was reiterated by Wiley who stated that it is not a common place for an Air Force reserve unit to deploy to a Navy base, and this was possibly one of the first such collaborations of this scale. 

“We are fighting the same fight, so why not train and fight together more often,” said Wiley. He emphasized the value of this type of training particularly in Rota where the installation’s airfield receives a large number of transient Air Force aircraft.  

During the unit’s time in Rota, they completed multiple live trainings including aircraft rescue firefighting, structural fire, flashover fire, and shipboard fire. Other trainings included confined space training, hazardous materials response, airfield and aircraft familiarization, and shipboard familiarization. Additionally, two individuals also received their HAZMAT technician level certification.

Despite many of the reservist serving as civilian firefighters in and around Kansas City, Missouri, most have never had the opportunity to receive this type of training and familiarization with ships and aircraft. 

“The best training we can get as Air Force firefighters is in a diverse environment,” said Johnson. “Between the 442nd F&ES and NAVSTA Rota F&ES we have similar training, but diverse fire experience. There are several techniques our citizen Airman shared with naval personnel, and vice versa.”
This cooperation and sharing will make both groups become better firefighters. Johnson said that being able to "glean skills from one another" is important in their daily firefighter duties and as a reservist firefighter. Wiley agreed and said that the impact of this cooperation goes beyond this deployment.

“This event is more significant than the Navy and Air Force Reserves, and even goes beyond the Department of Defense,” said Wiley. “Many of the airman deployed here are full time firefighters in their home communities. The training they received could one day help save their lives as well as citizens in their home communities.”

As the deployment came to a close, both sides felt that the collaboration was mutually beneficial and hope to have more opportunities to work together in the future.  

“This trip has uncovered a hidden gem of a fire department that is NAVSTA Rota Fire & Emergency Services,” said Johnson. “They have balanced their own needs against ours, and have been incredibly flexible in regards to trainings. We will leave here with a significant part of our training complete – not to mention several certifications. On behalf of the 442nd Fire & Emergency Services, we thank NAVSTA Rota Fire & Emergency Services.”