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Fire Explorer Academy

By Senior Airman Jalene A. Brooks | 11th Wing Public Affairs | Aug. 8, 2019

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. —

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- The 11th Civil Engineer Squadron’s firefighter unit orchestrated a 6-day course to teach cadets, ages 14-18, the basics of fire safety, search and rescue, CPR, and other emergency response techniques here, July 22 – 27, 2019.

On the first day of the program, cadets marched into a classroom for their first lesson.

Instructors watched as 12 unenthusiastic students facing a Power Point presentation about medical emergency response procedures slowly became more interested as the day progressed.

“It's really fun to watch them on the first day,” said Laura Garritsen, 11th CES Fire Department inspector. “They don’t know what to expect, then you get to watch them get the hang of it.”

By the end of the first session of the day, cadets learned how to properly perform medical emergency response techniques such as dragging or lifting an injured body as a team.

For the last three years, Laura and Corey Garritsen, 11th CES Fire Department inspectors, have orchestrated this program, teaching 10 to 16 students each summer. Their instructor’s goals are to help young adults make informed decisions about pursuing careers in fire prevention, medicine or a related emergency response field.

“It's so inspiring how in just a few days these lessons mold the cadets’ lives,” said Laura. “I keep up with some of our cadets from past years and they have moved on to be in the Air Force, work in medicine and one [former cadet] is even at a local fire department.”

On the final day, friends and family members of the cadets were invited to watch them demonstrate what was taught in the program. Cadets were challenged to don fire gear, operate a fire hose, search and rescue a manikin from a smoke-filled building, conduct CPR on the manikin, and put out a controlled fire.

“I really enjoyed the Fire Explorer Program because it challenged me to learn real ways to save a life and made me feel like a hero,” said 17-year-old Kran McElvaine.  

Instructors hope students leave the program with a number of everyday life skills and the confidence to respond when faced with an emergency.