CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.—The hallways were without a single light. Dark and without noise. On each side of the wide, carpeted indoor passage were smooth wooden doors leading to sleeping quarters of dozens of firefighter Airmen sleeping through the night. Not a call came throughout the evening, giving them an unusual amount of time to recover from the prior day’s demanding training and chores. Only the occasional slight sound of a left-overnight television could be heard.
But like a blade of noise penetrating the serene, sirens went off. The Airmen sprung from their bed, sliding into their firefighter gear. The loud siren was followed up with brief information about what the abruptly-awoke Airmen were heading into:
A medical emergency on base required first responders to help on-scene security forces with the situation.
From the moment the Cannon firefighters jump out of bed, a clock starts. They have 60 seconds until they need to be in their trucks, heading out to the scene of the call.
To keep themselves alert enroute in the truck, they’ll crack the occasional joke to one another to help disguise the fact they’ve been awake for mere minutes. Whether they’re responding to an incident on-base, at off-base housing or helping local fire departments with calls in Clovis or Portales, they have to stick together and help each other complete the mission; a mission that, without them staying motivated, would suffer greatly.
They stay motivated with the brotherhood that’s forged by fire between one another.
The camaraderie begins when the shift begins at the same time every morning. The incoming shift replaces the old and thus starts the briefings for the day. Once done, they go out and help check the endless yards of hoses on the back of the firetrucks.
The preparations aren’t for nothing; for the rest of the day, those Airmen aren’t just sitting around for the first call for help. They train. Plane hulls on fire. Scorching building interiors. Blinded search and rescue missions.
Airman 1st Class Cooper Lamey, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, finds structural fire training the most fun.
“It’s a thrill to kick open doors and put the fires out,” Lamey said.
As fun as it is, the main goal for Lamey and his peers is to stay ready.
“We simulate all the what-if scenarios so that if that were to happen, we’re prepared and are as successful as possible.”
When they’re indoors checking for survivors, every firefighter entering the building has to have a hold of the one in front of them until they escape with the victim. While covering plane fires with hundreds of gallons of water, all Airmen have a firm hold of the hose and are in line, ready to help the one inches in front of them.
After hours of training out in the hot New Mexican climate, the Airmen return to the station to complete daily chores to ensure the station is organized and all Airmen, their equipment and vehicles are ready on a moment’s notice for a call. Cleaning, putting things away, and, their favorite, voting on what’s for dinner.
Once decided, they then send a group in a firetruck to the base commissary with a grocery list.
Parked several yards away from the entrance, Engine Four (the name of the truck used to distinguish what the purpose of the truck is and which one of its kind it is) was still while the three Airmen in it were debating on what to get.
“I’m telling you, they’re like Lunchables, but for adults!” one of them explained to another, regarding a favorite snack of theirs.
Travelling in a pack, as they hunted for the ingredients across the dozen or so aisles inside, the three finished their shopping trip once all ingredients were crossed off on the sheet of paper given to them. When they returned to the truck, they ripped open the mini-snacks and feasted before returning to the station.
The following hour is usually for the Airmen to work out at the in-station gym, find some rest and relaxation after the busy day and prepare dinner for the entire shift of Airmen.
“You live with these guys 24 hours a day, every other day,” said Senior Airman Noah Benjamin, 27th SOCES fire protection apprentice. “We will have our ups and downs, but they help you through everything, especially the bad days. And of course, we have fun.”
The sound of football games and side conversations fill the spacious dining room. Some crew members drag tables and chairs closer to watch the game together. In the small kitchen connected to the room, the spicy scent of layered enchiladas fill the air soon after the cooks set the plates out, throwing blankets of food and sauces on top of each other until the plate is nearly drenched in Mexican cuisine. One by one, the men, wearing their down-time fire department shirt and gym shorts, filter in and out, entering quickly and leaving with their hands full of plates of food, bags of chips and jars of dipping sauce.
“Having the fire station as my home away from home can be challenging sometimes,” Lamey said. “However, the atmosphere is special here. It’s a family away from your normal family.”
Soon after dinner, some guys filter out to the day room to watch a movie. Others drag their feet to their bunk rooms to rest for the night. All, however, remain alert for the next call. More importantly, together.