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Fire Department weathering Bahrain

Tech. Sgt. Justin McKeown, Staff Sgt. Daniel Tatum, Staff Sgt. Scott Westmoreland, Tech. Sgt. Derek Hunter, and Master Sgt. Matthew Williams, fire fighters from the 169th Civil Engineering Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., pose for a photo in front of a fire truck while deployed to Bahrain, 2012.

Tech. Sgt. Justin McKeown, Staff Sgt. Daniel Tatum, Staff Sgt. Scott Westmoreland, Tech. Sgt. Derek Hunter, and Master Sgt. Matthew Williams, fire fighters from the 169th Civil Engineering Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., pose for a photo in front of a fire truck while deployed to Bahrain, 2012.

AIR BASE BAHRAIN, Bahrain -- The SCANG deployed five firefighters in April for a six-month operation at Air Base Bahrain in an effort to protect Navy assets. The deployed team is responsible for handling potential aircraft emergencies for incoming jets, which could include anything from F16s to Navy P3 sub chasers.

"Although there are many types of aircraft, we are only responsible for incoming American aircraft," said Tech. Sgt. Justin McKeown. "We also conduct classes, inspections, pre-fire building plans, station and base clean-up and other duties related to our training."

Master Sgt. Matt Williams, Station One Chief, said, "The weather is brutally hot here. The humidity is high. The temperatures normally exceed 100 degrees. Sand storms could last up to three days.

"Nevertheless, the guys from the 169th are doing great," he said. "The 24-hour-on and 24-hour-off shift provides a good opportunity for the younger guys to continue with their CDCs and physical training. There isn't much else to do, except be prepared to answer the 24-hour on-call alert."

The firefighters have, however, kept busy with real-world activities like dousing a dumpster fire, cleaning up a major fuel spill and assisting a vehicle roll over incident. Plus, numerous facility inspections and the replacement of more than 120 fire extinguishers provided training opportunities.

According to Williams, the team has learned to handle tasks with proficiency despite the equipment and "fair" weather they have become accustomed to at home.

"The difference between working here and back at McEntire is like night and day," Williams said. "The equipment at deployed locations isn't always in peak condition."

However, these challenges do not compare with the challenge of being away from their families. Williams said it certainly is beneficial that a few of them deployed together in 2010, but even that does not lessen the blow of not having their family around.

"Not having your family around can always wear on you some, but I have found that the best way to get through this is to keep your mind busy on the days off and simply endure the heat and the working conditions," he said.

The McEntire firefighters are scheduled to return home this fall.