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News | Jan. 13, 2014

Brig. Gen. Gersten participates in JTF-Bravo firefighter exercise

By Capt. Zach Anderson Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Peter E. Gersten, Deputy Director for Politico-Military Affairs (Western Hemisphere), Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate, Joint Staff, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., definitely felt the heat during a visit to Joint Task Force-Bravo here today.

As part of his visit, Gersten participated in a live burn exercise conducted by the firefighters of Joint Task Force-Bravo's 612th Air Base Squadron. During the exercise, Gersten joined the firefighters in donning fire protective gear and entering the Soto Cano Air Base "burn house" to put out a blazing fire, while enduring temperatures that ranged upward of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

"It was an amazing experience," said Gersten after exiting the burn house. "I've been a squadron commander, a group commander and a wing commander and I've never done a burn."

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joel Woodhall, a firefighter assigned to the 612 ABS, said he enjoyed getting to demonstrate his job for the general.

"It always feels good to get an opportunity to show a senior leader what we do every day," said Woodhall. "Many of them come from different career fields, so by taking them and going through a demonstration like this with them, they gain a great understanding of our career field and they usually leave with a smile on their face as well."

Following the exercise, Gersten shared with the firefighters a story about one of his best friends, a fellow pilot, who was rescued from flaming wreckage by firefighters following an aviation incident.

"As an operator, there are a few things you depend on," said Gersten. "One of those is maintenance, trusting the aircraft will perform properly. And the other is the firefighters and knowing that if things go bad, you guys will be there to come pull us out."

Woodhall said it meant a lot to hear Gersten speak highly of the role of the firefighters.

"It's special to hear how a firefighter saved one of his best friends," said Woodhall. "Anytime we get a call to go save someone, it's probably the worst day of that individual's life. But if we save them, then that day becomes the best day of our lives because we were able to do our job and keep someone alive."

Before departing Soto Cano, Gersten expressed how impressed he was with what he witnessed during his visit to Joint Task Force-Bravo.

"The Chairman, the Service Chiefs and the Combatant Commanders always talk about Joint Task Force-Bravo, the motivation, professionalism and dedication of the warriors here," said Gersten. "The chance to come down here and see it for myself has simply proven the fact that what they say is very much true."