JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
Smoke bellows out of a building on a hot summer day as two teenagers dressed in full firefighting gear charge in as part of a Joint Base Andrews Fire Explorer Academy search and rescue exercise.
The training was part of an FEA course here that allowed six cadets, from 14 to 18 years old, to experience what it is like to be an Air Force firefighter.
“The hardest thing was orienting yourself – trying to figure out where we were in the building,” said Trevette Kuester, FEA cadet. “You can’t [see], so you had to feel and remember where you had been already. When we were dragging the 5-foot tall mannequin, I couldn’t see my brother on the other side of it.”
The cadets began each day with classroom instruction followed by hands-on equipment training. Students then used their newly acquired knowledge and skills to perform full activities.
“There was something new every day,” said Trevette Kuester. “We learned about tying knots and did [search and rescue] on [Thursday]. [Wednesday], we used the fire hose – I feel like it’s hard to pick a favorite part of training.”
For Trevette Kuester, the hardest training he received was CPR.
“The most physically demanding thing we did was a 2-minute CPR drill; we had to have good rhythm and depth,” said Trevette Kuester. “It was more challenging than most thought it would be.”
Trevette Kuester stated the firefighters are friendly and always willing to help. His father, Col. Christopher Kuester, 11th Mission Support Group deputy commander, said the teamwork the firefighters displayed left an impact on his son.
In only six days, the cadets graduated and received an American Heart Association CPR card.
Christopher Kuester said the fire training, emergency medical service skills and experience the cadets received would be lasting.
“We wanted to establish this program so young men and women could learn about firefighting and emergency services to determine if it is a career they would be interested in pursuing,” said Laura Garritsen, 11th Wing Civil Engineer Squadron fire inspector. “Our objective is to promote learning, teamwork and organization.”