Robins Fire Department wins best of AFMC

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  • By Amanda Creel
Firefighters at Robins are seeing things differently and their new perspective is gaining them respect.

"We are not blindly walking; now we have vision," said Todd Surber, a civilian firefighter at Robins.

The new vision is one of improved processes, better facilities and equipment and better trained firefighters, which means Robins firefighters are now more prepared to protect the Robins community.

The Robins Fire Department was recently awarded the Chief Master Sgt. Ralph E. Sanborn award, which recognizes the best fire protection flight in the Air Force Materiel Command, for the department's successful efforts and improvements.

In February, the department had 36 Unit Compliance Inspection write-ups and as of Thursday the unit had resolved all of them, said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Rosser, deputy fire chief.

"With so many people doing so many different things, it's impossible to recognize all of them, but with AFMC recognizing the vast improvements of the department, it validates all of our efforts," said Master Sgt. Shawn Ricchuito, assistant chief of training for the department.

It all began with some new blood in the department. The new faces brought with them a new management structure and some new guidance policies.

"Everyone's really embraced the new management and we can see where we are going; we can see it through their eyes," Mr. Surber said.

In one year the department went from not being recognized for anything to being named the best fire department in the AFMC, Sergeant Rosser said.

"I just want to give them some glory for killing themselves for the last year to be great," Sergeant Rosser said.

"The things they have accomplished this year are truly mind boggling."

One of the most important changes, according to the firemen, is the establishment of expectations for the firefighters and the opportunity to work together to improve the fire department's overall performance.

"As an employee you can give input and know the management is listening," Mr. Surber said. "We are vested in the department and contributing to it and making it our own."

Sergeant Rosser said all the department needed was to be on the same page and once the members of the fire department knew what was expected of them they went full speed ahead.

"They took the ball and just ran off with it," Sergeant Rosser said. "I have never seen any fire department turn around like this in my military career."

The firefighters agreed there was no one person or change that led to the fire departments recognition. It was a collaborative effort.

"It can't be one person's success. It has to be a total team effort and we have done that," Sergeant Ricchuito said.

Two areas the department focused on during the past year are logistics and training. The department has worked to improve their logistics program by adding an inventory system and storage system to help track and maintain their supplies.

"We built a complete inventory system, so we have better control of assets and spending and a storage system to put everything into," said Airmen 1st Class Benjamin Rolph, NCO in charge of logistics.

One of the first assignments this year for the logistics personnel was locating and purchasing Joint Firefighter Integrated Response Ensemble masks which are required equipment when firefighters deploy.

"I could only supply them. The SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) team had to fit test them and make sure they were fully functioning mask when they go out on the field,"

Having the right supplies was just one of many steps taken by the department. The fire department also worked to improve the training program.

The program started maintaining training records in a database, which allows them to track individual progress. Since March, the firefighters collectively completed more than 30,000 hours of training and invested more than $10,000 in training gear, such as mannequins and smoke machines, and an additional $800,000 for a structural live fire facility where firefighters train on a live fire, Sergeant Ricchuito said.

The firefighters agreed this year's efforts are just the beginning for the department and being named the best in AFMC was just more motivation to continue their hard work.

"We have to continue to progress ahead and keep this momentum going," Sergeant Ricchuito said.

One of the things the future will bring is the completion of a new 26,176 square feet state-ofthe- art fire station near the Robins Aero Club.

Sergeant Rosser, said he wants the Robins community to know what these firefighters have accomplished in the last year.

"These guys are pretty dadgum good," he said. "So, they can all drive around in their trucks with a little pride."