HCC students visit USAG-HI DES Fire Division

| May 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

University of Hawaii’s Honolulu Community College student Ryan Kealoha-Kahunahana does pull-ups at Stoneman Stadium on Schofield Barracks, May 12.

Story and photos by
Kristen Wong
Contributing Writer
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Students from the Fire and Environmental Emergency Response program at the University of Hawaii’s Honolulu Community College came to visit U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii’s Directorate of Emergency Services’ Fire Division to meet firefighters and try out firefighter physical fitness tests.

This is the third year HCC students have visited USAG-HI’s DES Fire Division.

“I just think it’s a great opportunity for the Army and the civilian community to work together. We all do the same job,” said Charles Gibbs, the fire chief for USAG-HI. “I think it’s a good idea to have everybody come together, train together, work together (and) play together.”

Preston Donato, a University of Hawaii’s Honolulu Community College student, and fellow classmate David Foster participate in work capacity test for wildland firefighters, or ‘Pack Test,’ at Stoneman Stadium.

First engagement
The students first engaged in a work capacity test (WCT) for wildland firefighters, called the “Pack Test,” walking laps around Stoneman Stadium wearing 45-pound vests. Wildland firefighters take the WCT as part of their annual re-certification for an Incident Qualification Card, or Red Card, in their specialty.

The Pack Test consists of a 3-mile walk with a 45-pound vest under 45 minutes. Participants are not allowed to run or jog.

Ryan Nakoa (left), a firefighter with USAG-HI DES, helps student Nicholas Lee with his 45-pound vest before engaging in a work capacity test for wildland firefighters.

An extremely hot sun beat down upon the students, joined by their instructor and firefighter Ryan Nakoa. The group, which started together, gradually began to separate along the track.

After a short break, the students headed to the pull-up bar beside the track. Participants did as many complete pull-ups as they could, then moved on to sit-ups and push-ups. There was no required number of pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups. Instead, the firefighters strive for improvement each year.

HCC student Puanani Akaka (left) supports classmate Stone San Nicolas as he does push-ups.

HCC student Ryan Kealoha-Kahunahana said the day’s experience made him more interested in fire. He said he was grateful to both his instructor and the Army for the day.

“I got to test my agility, even exercise my mentality,” he said. “It was awesome; loved it.”

For Kealoha-Kahunahana, the biggest challenge was the 3-mile walk.

“(I’m) really looking forward to graduating and becoming a fireman in the future,” he said.

Matthew Belluomini, a professor for Fire 152, Wildland Fire Control Field Methods, supported his class through the Pack Test and during the day’s other physical fitness activities.

“The Army fire is nice enough to invite us over here and host HCC, and they show us what they do and kind of bring us into their environment,” Belluomini said. “These students are in my wildland class and this is a good kind of hands-on experience (of) what they do and what is required of them. It’s kinda cool.”

HCC student Preston Donato does pull-ups as part of the Fire and Environmental Emergency Response program at HCC.

Bryson Kamakura, a division firefighter, said USAG-HI’s fire department is a unique program, specializing solely in fighting wildfire. While each Army installation has firefighters additionally certified in wildland fires, this department is the only one that exclusively tackles wildland fires.

Gibbs explained that while other fire departments are also trained in fighting wildfire, the department here fights wildfires regularly, and on a larger scale.

After lunch, the students had a chance to ask the firefighters questions about their trade.

Kamakura said the field trip was beneficial in helping the students make a life decision. He added that becoming a firefighter is a big decision and an honor.

Puanani Akaka (right) supports classmate Stone San Nicolas as he does sit-ups at Stoneman Stadium.

“I can’t tell you how (many) people that I know of (who) wanted to be a firefighter, but they couldn’t cut it physically or they couldn’t cut it mentally,” he said. “We’re protecting those who protect us … you’ve got to take it seriously because any given day you can die in our field.”

The USAG-HI DES Fire Division was established more than a dozen years ago. Kamakura said it fights between eight to a dozen fires monthly. The firefighters, certified by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, protect the Army’s ranges, training areas and hiking paths. The department has also aided in search and rescue.

“It’s not something to take lightly; that’s for sure,” Kamakura said. “If you’re going to be a firefighter, or anything in the emergency services, then you need to take it seriously.”

Tags: , ,

Category: Community, Community Relations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *