Story and photos by Dani Johnson
ANSBACH, Germany (Dec. 21, 2020) – The year 2020 ended on a high note for U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Directorate of Emergency Services firefighters who were selected as the Installation Management Command-Europe Small Fire Department of the Year.
The department, co-located on Katterbach Kaserne and Storck Barracks, receive the award for their accomplishments in emergency response, public outreach, training and education, and innovation and initiatives.
“I am proud that we made the Fire Department of the Year in the category small department. Our Fire Fighters are committed to excellence and always strive to make or do things better,” said Stefan Groetschel, Fire and Emergency Services Ansbach fire chief. “They are all aware that excellence is not a destination – it is a journey. We all try to serve our department in the best way.
“I am proud to have Fire Fighters which are result oriented and do have a positive attitude towards results,” he added. “All this paid off and we hope that we will make it all the way up to the Department of Defense award of being best Fire Department of the Year.”
Throughout the year, the fire department, consisting of 40 local national firefighters, responded to an aircraft rescue response off post emergency when a 12th Combat Aviation Brigade helicopter hit a power line during night operations as well as provided mutual aid support to Ansbach city when a landslide impacted a residential area.
The firefighters prevented a fire from spreading on post when a bus caught fire at the fuel station and were honored by the garrison command team.
“Our Fire Fighters responded in a professional manner on every call,” said Groetschel. “Firefighting is a craft – the necessary skills can be developed through training. Success in Firefighting requires the application of that knowledge and those skills.
“They have to quickly pull attack lines while wearing self-contained breathing apparatus, determine the priorities, use additives with water to protect infrastructure and equipment while quickly extinguishing the fire itself,” the fire chief said. “The public education and customer outreach of the fire department proved to be very successful with equipment displays, games and driving simulators as well as community fire extinguisher training that was lauded in the Interactive Customer Evaluation system as ‘best training ever’.
The fire department organized and executed a 24 hour real-time exercise with the host nation and Red Cross and trains host nation fire officers on aircraft emergency response therefore fostering a working relationship.
“Our firefighting professionals serve a critical role within the USAG Ansbach Directorate of Emergency Services to preserve and protect the life, health and safety of our entire community,” said Lt. Col. Adrian Foster, director of Emergency Services. “Their outstanding efforts not only impact the garrison, but extend beyond our installations and directly into the local communities of Ansbach and Illesheim.
“Through execution of mutual aid agreements, joint training and daily interaction, our Fire & Emergency Services professionals forge an enduring partnership that not only enhances German and American capabilities, but results in repeated recognition from Host Nation civic leaders, first responders, and local volunteer fire departments,” the colonel continued. “This is only a small part of the reason why community outreach is so vital to our efforts in connecting on a personal level with our German partners.”
They started a state-of-the-art training program for aerial ladder and Aircraft Rescue Firefighting truck operators, ensuring the high performance training is effective. The department developed a firefighter physical training challenge concept that was physically tested by the command team.
The USAG Ansbach Fire Department has led the way with COVID-19 hygiene concepts and ensuring they are within host nation guidelines. Throughout the past year, they have improved the fire station with new fire alarm detection systems and a computer-aided fire hose care system and used $370,000 in year end funds to buy needed equipment.
“I am truly humbled and inspired to work alongside the men and women of the USAG Ansbach Fire & Emergency Services team,” Foster said. “Each member is deeply committed to the garrison and believes what they do every day on behalf of our Soldiers, Civilians, Army Professionals, and Local National teammates matter.
“It is evident in their absolute professionalism, in the execution of their duties, and in the effortless way they engage with and care for our Army Families and local community,” he added. “They serve as an outstanding example of what makes Ansbach the ‘Best Hometown in Europe!’”