Foster’s fire officer conference focuses on training, procedures
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Firefighting officers from various bases throughout mainland Japan and Okinawa converged last week for the 20th annual All Japan Master Labor Contract Senior Fire Officers’ Conference.
The three-day get-together allowed firefighting officials to discuss the latest training, equipment and procedures, said Mark Sileikis, assistant fire chief for fire prevention and education for Camp Butler.
The group was welcomed Tuesday by Camp Foster commander Col. Glenn Wagner. Wagner compared firefighters to Marines: “You train constantly, not knowing what to expect but knowing you must be ready.”
The MLC and U.S. fire officers spent most of the conference split into separate groups, working through their own issues and agendas.
One of the important items for the Japanese firefighters is receiving their certification.
“We’re working toward all the Japanese MLCs having the same certification as other DOD firefighters,” Sileikis said. “The big thing here is that there is no certification for Japanese firefighters. Once they get their pro-board certification, that’s recognized by the DOD, and then they will also get their DOD certification.”
Pro-board certification is the Professional Qualification Standards Board; DOD requires all employed American firefighters to hold this certification. But Sileikis said the goal is to certify all the MLC firefighters also. To help with the certification process, Marine Corps Bases Japan fire departments have partnered with Texas A&M’s firefighting school.
“We are an extension of them to certify people to the pro board level,” said Randy Meyer, assistant fire chief of training.
The language barrier and training manuals also are issues, Sileikis said. The DOD fire departments in Japan are translating all manuals into Japanese. For Marine Corps fire departments on Okinawa, that task has fallen to translator Moe Shimabukuro. She spends every day translating the firefighting manuals.
“It was pretty hard at first, because I didn’t know [firefighting] terms, so I went through some training to learn how they do things,” Shimabukuro said.
Other topics covered during the conference were standardizing uniforms and how to get warranty-covered equipment repaired, among other things.
“It’s better to get together to compare notes and see how others are doing things rather than reinventing the wheel,” Sileikis said.
Anthony Toguchi, the battalion chief of operations for MCB, said with the ever-expanding role of firefighters, it’s important to meet and share information.
“Firefighters in the past were just firefighters,” Toguchi said. “Now it’s expanding to Hazmat, confined space, EMS and water rescue. Each command has different areas they need help in, and when we get together, we share information and help each other.”