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Instructor Alex Vinces, middle, and fire chief Desi Wade, back right, watch as firefighting recruits work with the fire hose during a training exercise Sunday on Camp Lemonier, Djibouti.

Instructor Alex Vinces, middle, and fire chief Desi Wade, back right, watch as firefighting recruits work with the fire hose during a training exercise Sunday on Camp Lemonier, Djibouti. (Zeke Minaya / S&S)

Instructor Alex Vinces, middle, and fire chief Desi Wade, back right, watch as firefighting recruits work with the fire hose during a training exercise Sunday on Camp Lemonier, Djibouti.

Instructor Alex Vinces, middle, and fire chief Desi Wade, back right, watch as firefighting recruits work with the fire hose during a training exercise Sunday on Camp Lemonier, Djibouti. (Zeke Minaya / S&S)

Fire Chief Desi Wade, right, times a recruit as he puts on his equipment Sunday on Camp Lemonier, Djibouti. Wade has 13 Djiboutian recruits whom he hopes to have up to speed with the necessary certifications within a year, he said.

Fire Chief Desi Wade, right, times a recruit as he puts on his equipment Sunday on Camp Lemonier, Djibouti. Wade has 13 Djiboutian recruits whom he hopes to have up to speed with the necessary certifications within a year, he said. (Zeke Minaya / S&S)

A fire recruit works with the fire hose during a training session Sunday on Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Thirteen Djiboutians are being trained to join the firefighting crew of the American base.

A fire recruit works with the fire hose during a training session Sunday on Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Thirteen Djiboutians are being trained to join the firefighting crew of the American base. (Zeke Minaya / S&S)

DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti — Fighting fire on Camp Lemonier is an international affair.

The fire crew for the base that is home to the Combined Jointed Task Force – Horn of Africa has members from Latin America, Asia and North America.

That roster will make room for full-fledged firefighters from Africa after 13 recruits from Djibouti complete their training.

When establishing a U.S. base overseas, the local fire station is typically manned by the nationals from the hosting country, said Desi Wade, 36, Camp Lemonier fire chief.

When the call went out for recruits in Djibouti, 500 applicants showed up, he said.

Wade said he was looking for recruits who were physically fit, spoke English and had a high school education.

Wade said he had to end some interviews before they even started when he discovered the applicant could not communicate in English.

“Some people cried,” Wade said recalling some reactions.

“But the training is in English, so you have to have that skill.”

When he had found his recruit class of 13, it was time to mold firefighters.

The rookies were enthusiastic, Wade said.

“We had fresh blood in the fire department and they came in all zealous,” Wade said laughing.

Several times a week, the recruits get up at dawn to exercise.

Classroom instruction is often followed by hands-on application of lessons.

After about two months of instruction, the Djiboutian firefighters are progressing nicely, he said.

As an indication, Wade points out that when the Djiboutian recruits were first timed getting into their firefighting gear, they typically would take about four minutes.

Now, the trainees get suited up in less than a minute.

“There’s no one over a minute,” Wade said. “That’s real good. They are progressing nicely.”

That speed is necessary when you only have up to five minutes to report to a fire on the flight line and up to 12 minutes for structures, Wade said.

Amir Idris, 23-year-old Djiboutian recruit joked that he wants to be a firefighter because “they say men look good in a uniform.” He said his true motivation was his desire to help people. “Firefighters are real heroes, and I like to assist people in any way that I can.”

Yassin Abdi, a 41-year-old recruit said “it’s a tough job” but that Wade and the other instructors were very supportive. “The chief is very good about teaching us how to work as a team,” he said.

Wade said that good firefighters are more than just a people familiar with the duties of the job.

Good firefighters, no matter what their country of origin, have a ingrained need to help people.

“Most firefighters, even if you don’t ask for their help, will be there when you need them. It’s a tight-knit brotherhood,” Wade said.


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