Tennessee Air National Guard, Memphis, Tenn. (November 13, 2018) -- A firefighter from 164th Civil Engineering Squadron in Memphis, Tennessee, recently merged with firefighters from Bulgaria, Latvia, and Estonia at a joint exercise called Northern Strike 18, held July 23 through Aug. 18 at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena, Michigan.
Northern Strike is sponsored by the National Guard Bureau and focuses on providing joint and multi-national full-spectrum combat readiness training for firefighters.
Tech. Sgt Terrence Jones, a nine-year military firefighter and a civilian firefighter, jumped at the chance to go to Alpena and train with other firefighters, when his installation chief of the 164th CES asked him.
“When I go the call I immediately said yes,” said Jones. “I didn’t know exactly all aspects of what I was going to be doing or what was going to be going on, I just went. I got bits and pieces of information here and there. I knew I was gong to be meeting with my Bulgarian state partners and that we were going to be working together.”
“This was the first time Tennessee firefighters and Bulgarian firefighters worked with each other,” said Master Sgt. Joseph D. Dimauro, the installation fire chief of the 164th CES, “Northern Strike 18 built a foundation for our relationship. Technical Sgt. Jones and the Bulgarian firefighters shared knowledge of the career field and gave a different perspective of emergency response procedures that both organizations can utilize back at home station.”
The Tennessee National Guard and the armed forces of Bulgaria are partners under the U.S. National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program, which pairs National Guard organizations in the United States with armed forces in other countries allowing for a mutually beneficial relationship. This allows the participants to learn about techniques that organizations use during emergencies.
The Bulgarians have limited resources and training opportunities. With Alpena’s resources, and Jones experiences and leadership, the Bulgarians were in a good environment to learn and gain a better understanding of responding during emergency situations, explained Dimauro.
This exercise was an opportunity for Jones to build a relationship with domestic and international firefighters, especially Bulgaria.
“We worked together; we trained together; we built a relationship together,” said Jones.
It was because of this program Jones was able meet the Bulgarians, Estonians, and Latvians at Alpena.
“He has strengthened the relationship not only between Tennessee and Bulgaria, but the other countries as well,” Dimauro said.
Jones said that the only challenge he faced while working with the Bulgarian partners was a small language barrier. The Bulgarian firefighters had not had to use English since they were in grade school and therefore had some difficulties understanding the language during the Incident Command course; however, after talking with them during the first week, Jones was able to help them quickly overcome the barrier.
“We discussed a lot of things concerning our career field,” said Jones. “We bounced ideas off each other. We talked a lot about the future as far as continuing to come together and train together and learn things together and work together.”
In the beginning, the firefighters spoke different languages. Once they overcame that barrier, they all had one thing in common, “put the wet stuff on the red stuff,” explained Jones.
When talking about continuing their relationship with the Bulgarian firefighters, Jones said that he hopes that in the future the TNG firefighters and Bulgarian firefighters will be able to have more training opportunities where they can work together.