NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria — As part of a Soldier's
National Guard commitment, for two weeks every year, they take part
in an annual training mission that will almost always require them
to travel somewhere away from their home station.
travel locations could be to training areas inside the state,
outside the state or even to a foreign country.
In July 2014,
U.S. Army National Guard firefighters from the states of Ohio,
Colorado and Massachusetts were the first firefighters to occupy and
become the temporary fire protection force during two-week rotations
serving at Novo Selo Forward Operating Station. Novo Selo is one of
the largest NATO-operated military bases in Bulgaria, located in the
eastern part of the country, near the Black Sea.
Firefighters from the Ohio Army National Guard's 5694th Engineer Detachment participate in a training class with firefighters from various European countries' militaries in support of Black Sea Rotational Force 14 (BSRF-14)-Operation Platinum Lion. The Ohio firefighters participated in the event as part of their 2014 annual training earlier this year, becoming the temporary fire protection force during a two-week rotation serving at Novo Selo Forward Operating Station, Bulgaria. (Image
created by USA Patriotism! April 23, 2015 from photos by U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Johnson)
For the firefighters of the Ohio Army National Guard's
5694th Engineer Detachment, based in Mansfield, Ohio, their
2014 annual training was spent at Novo Selo working with
firefighters from around the world in support of Black Sea
Rotational Force 14 (BSRF-14)-Operation Platinum Lion.
Operation Platinum Lion is a joint operation where U.S.
Marines train with military personnel Bulgaria, Azerbaijan,
Romania, Serbia and the United Kingdom, who were in Bulgaria
to take part in a joint a live-fire exercise.
firefighters, including 5694th Engineer Detachment Soldiers,
supported operations by providing firefighting support for
the entire Novo Selo base and its shooting ranges.
During their time in Bulgaria, the 5694th firefighters were
instrumental in helping to finalize a fire department mutual
aid agreement between the United States and Bulgaria. A
mutual aid agreement is an agreement between two entities
(in the U.S., mutual aid between fire departments from
different jurisdictions is common), according to Chief
Warrant Officer 2 Thomas Drzik, commander of the 5694th.
This agreement encompassed a 20-kilometer area around
the Novo Selo base, and established a commissioned fire
station on the installation as well.
necessary because Bulgarian fire departments cover extremely
large areas and cannot get to some fires for over an hour,”
Drzik said. “The week before we arrived, a home less than
five minutes from base burned to the ground; the fire
department never showed up. If we had been there and mutual
aid had been established, we could've responded.”
Drzik said the agreement works both ways. If the U.S. needed
help fighting a woodland fire on the range, Bulgarian
Emergency Services would help.
Prior to the Ohio Army
National Guard unit's arrival, the U.S. Embassy had
unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate the mutual aid
agreement with the Bulgarian first responders. Drzik said
that when he arrived in Bulgaria, one of the first things
that the director of the Black Sea Area Support Team for
Romania and Bulgaria asked him to do was to set up a meeting
with the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior to help develop
the mutual aid agreement.
Over the course of many
days, Drzik and the other National Guard firefighters worked
to establish the level of trust and understanding needed to
allow the mutual aid agreement to be crafted.
developed cross-service partnerships on two days of training
with Bulgarian Emergency Services,” Drzik said.
firefighters worked with the regional Bulgarian Emergency
Services, toured their facilities, and they toured the Novo
Selo facilities. “One day was spent in the city of Sliven,
understanding what capabilities that the firefighters there
had and how we [the Novo Selo base] would complement each
other,” Drzik said.
Another day was spent on Novo
Selo, hooking Bulgarian trucks to U.S. trucks, conducting
pumping operations from one to another and demonstrating new
firefighting techniques to the Bulgarian Emergency Services.
“The largest obstacles faced in developing the agreement
were to breach the language gap and for both sides to
understand that we were there as equals,” Drzik said. “We
are all experienced firefighters from different nations.
This was an agreement where egos needed to be put aside and
all had to understand their limitations.”
In the end,
the mutual aid agreement was established to the benefit of
all parties involved.
“Chief Drzik was instrumental
in helping write and implement a mutual aid agreement for me
with the local authorities,” said Col. Ronald Bahr, director
of the Black Sea Area Support Team for Romania and Bulgaria.
During their time at Novo Selo, the Ohio Army National
Guard firefighters also established and commissioned a fire
station at Novo Selo. The fire station had stood vacant for
two years after it was constructed.
“Drzik and his
team helped to inventory and put into service the three fire
engines that were just delivered to Novo Selo a few days
prior to their arrival,” Bahr said, adding that the Ohio
firefighters made critical contributions and a very positive
impression while at Novo Selo.
“In the end, Chief
Drzik also coordinated coverage for all the training
activities to ensure the best possible response and outcomes
for any emergencies,” Bahr said. “Overall, the team was
motivated and great to work with.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Johnson
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