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Firefighters from Naval Support Activity Bahrain and the Bahrain Airport Co. enter the new live structural fire training facility at Bahrain International Airport during an exercise. A complete fire training complex is planned at the site that will include classrooms and several trainers.

Firefighters from Naval Support Activity Bahrain and the Bahrain Airport Co. enter the new live structural fire training facility at Bahrain International Airport during an exercise. A complete fire training complex is planned at the site that will include classrooms and several trainers. (Steve Smith/U.S. Navy)

MANAMA, Bahrain — U.S. Navy firefighters here used a new live-fire trainer at the Bahrain International Airport for the first time over the weekend.

The trainer, which looks like a modified shipping container, sits in an empty airport lot adjacent to the runway. It is one of the first modules of several fire trainers the Navy plans to install at the site.

The Navy has an agreement with Bahraini officials to use the land for three years, said Will Shanholtzer, Naval Support Activity Bahrain fire chief.

Shanholtzer expects there will be an entire fire training complex there by summer that will include classrooms and several trainers, allowing firefighters to train on structural, aircraft and automobile fires. The entire complex will cost the Navy about $2 million and will be the first of its kind in Bahrain.

“Each federal firefighter has a yearly requirement to obtain live-fire training. In this AOR (area of responsibility) there was no capacity to make it happen,” Shanholtzer said.

The base fire department is fairly new — established in response to the ongoing Navy expansion in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy 5th fleet.

“My firefighters here were working at Taco Bell at the [Navy Exchange] 20 months ago,” he said.

Even though they are certified, for many of the firefighters, the training was only the second time they had faced a real fire.

Shanholtzer says the new facility will allow firefighters to train monthly and to conduct joint training with city departments, the Bahrain Airport Co. fire department and the Bahraini Defense Force.

The need for such cooperation was emphasized in August when base firefighters were called to help with an apartment building fire near the Navy base.

Shanholtzer says the airport fire chief told him recently that officials as far away as Qatar and Dubai are interested in seeing the new facility.

U.S. Navy firefighters and firefighters from the Bahrain Airport Co. spent last weekend testing the new trainer and learning its quirks.

simoes.hendrick@stripes.com Twitter: @hendricksimoes


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