Ohio firefighter trains with German firefighters in Ansbach

Story by Bianca Sowders

ANSBACH, Germany (July 13, 2021) – A U.S. volunteer fire chief from a small town in Ohio, currently deployed to Ansbach, Germany, with his National Guard unit, walked into the Installation Management Command Europe Fire Fighting Training Center on Urlas Kaserne in Ansbach to ask for a tour and was invited back to participate in their regular training.

Master Sgt. Chris Wysong, who hails from Washington Court House, Ohio, works as a Human Resources specialist for the 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Ohio National Guard. During his current deployment to Ansbach, he fills a major’s officer–in-charge slot of the brigade’s S1 Personnel.

At his home base, he is also the chief of the volunteer fire department of the Wayne Township, Fayette County, Ohio.

A firefighter for 19 years, Wyson spotted the training center on Urlas, while shopping for groceries at the co-located commissary, after he first arrived in Ansbach. “I saw immediately that this was a fire training center, so I was really excited,” Wysong said. He made contact and asked for a tour, after which the local fire fighters invited him to return for some joint training.

Wysong jumped on the opportunity and received permission from his command to train with his German counterparts for two days. “Even when I’m away from my guys at home, I feel the need to stay relevant,” he said. “I believe, no matter how many bugles [firefighters’ rank insignia] you wear, even a chief should be as fluent and efficient in all tasks as the others. So I’m glad the guys here allowed me to join in.”

Despite the language barrier, he managed to visit the downtown Ansbach City Fire Department for a tour, as well as one of the small volunteer departments in a village nearby.

Comparing the firefighting services on two continents, Wysong noted that a lot of the equipment, training and processes were alike. “No matter who I talked to, we can tell a lot of the same stories in both countries,” he added.

Alexander Gernhard, training officer at the IMCOM-E Fire Fighting Training Center, marveled at the capability of firefighters all over the world: “It’s amazing how we can throw together people from different countries, and within a few minutes of coordination we have a fully functional response team.”

About the Fire Fighting Training Center: Ansbach is home to the Installation Management Command Europe Fire and Emergency Services Regional Training Center, the only one of its kind in Europe. Representatives of Emergency Services Directorates and Fire Chiefs from garrisons across IMCOM-Europe meet regularly at the Training Center in Ansbach on Urlas Kaserne to tour the facilities and plan training as well as to take part in or observe certification training of U.S. and German firefighters. The center was designed for hands-on training and academic instruction. Visitors learn about the different training opportunities, observe and refresh their fire-fighting and rescue skills in a variety of training scenarios including fire ground operations, breaching and rescue operations, equipment maintenance, hazardous materials response and emergency communications procedures.

The center also has IMCOM-Europe’s only Fire Scenario Simulator, capable of creating an array of emergency situations digitally – and realistically – in order to train firefighters and emergency personnel. Fire and rescue training is a required, regular part of fire fighters annual performance testing and certification.

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