The Flames of PTSD


As military firefighters, we are in more danger inside the wire than on the outside. Aircraft crashes could range from UAVs, helicopters,
armed F-16s, C-5s to name a few. This includes armed weapon systems, carcinogenic hazardous materials, fire and explosive safety systems.
Other hazards on base include response to indirect fire attacks and general fires that would be reported. The fire department has a rescue
crew with assigned medics to assist in any medical emergencies as they would occur.

My second tour in Iraq was much different from the first. I learned that my firefighting teams and I were to be stationed in Joint Base Balad, Iraq. This may seem the most ideal location to most deployments; however, experiences differ between combat veterans.

My role in this was leadership as a crew chief and Rescue Air Mobility Squad Non-Commissioned Officer (RAMS NCOIC). This would be a rather
difficult role in which leadership and team-building became crucial. This required the trust and confidence in your fellow team member to
push themselves to mitigate each emergency and take care of each other. Training, more training and further training took place to ensure each team member knew their role and how to perform interchangeably as needed. The firefighters that I had the privilege to train performed exceptionally well.

The return was very difficult for my teams. We returned to Germany and almost immediately, five of us were transferred to Fort Rucker, Alabama. Two years of fire department administration did not abate the memories of the previous experience.

Following a promotion, I was selected to become a master resilience trainer. This program is the result of a multi-year study performed to
determine the effects and continued treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. It teaches service members to recognize the signs and
while accepting that anger and other symptoms are natural and should not be ignored. Coping exercises and goal achievement were paramount to improving ourselves as we lived with PTSD.

I returned to my organization following the certification and brought this to my former teams. This opened an inner and exterior dialogue among one another. This brought my team much closer while allowing an improved understanding of other firefighters within the fire department that had never deployed to the combat zone.

We’ve become family and I will never forget standing on the taxiway waiting for that UH-60 to pick us up for another mission outside the wire with only small arms and a stokes basket of extrication tools to get the job done.

Author: lucinda.taylor

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