By Joshua Cohen
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
From July 11-21, delegates from Senegal’s National Fire Brigade (Brigade Nationale des Sapeurs-Pompiers) visited Vermont as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
According to Col. Randall Gates, VTNG director of military support, “The overall objective of the visit was for Brig. Gen. Seck and his subordinates to gain a good understanding of emergency preparedness and response across all state agencies, so we set up visits with Urban Search and Rescue, Vermont Emergency Management, and the Vermont Fire Academy, we also had a visit to the Pittsford Fire Department.” Gates was responsible for the Senegal delegation’s logistics and organizing agency demonstrations.
Throughout their stay, the Vermont National Guard, firefighting departments and rescue organizations provided the Brigade members with capability and equipment demonstrations as well as fire-fighting related briefings. These included military range firefighting briefings followed by a static display of fire-fighting vehicles and specialty tools.
Gates said a July 15 visit to the Vermont Fire Academy in Pittsford was the visit’s highlight. “The Academy pulled out all the stops for us, we were given live flame demonstrations, shown how to put out dumpster and car fires, they showed us the burn house and laid out all their equipment for the delegation to examine.”
“If you’re a firefighter in Senegal at some level you report to Brig. Gen. Seck,” said Gates. “They want more specialization within the Fire Brigade, they want to get into search and rescue, explosive ordinance disposal and HAZMAT.” Gates explained that much of the new capabilities the Senegal Fire Brigade seeks to establish can be learned with the assistance of Vermont State agencies and the VTNG.
Later, demonstrations of rescue techniques using trained canines, drones and sonic detection equipment were provided by the State of Vermont’s Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR VT-TF1) at Camp Johnson, Vermont National Guard Joint Force Headquarters.
Brig. Gen. Mor Seck, the delegation’s senior member and commander of the Senegal National Fire Brigade found a static display of the team’s water-borne assets of particular interest, stating he would like to build up his organization’s sea rescue capabilities. Col. Ibrahima Diatta and Adjuvant Abdou Karime Ndiaye accompanied Seck for this training.
Next, members of the Vermont National Guard’s 15th Civil Support Team provided a chemical biological incident response exercise. In protective suits, Guardsmen demonstrated methods for searching for a simulated weapon of mass destruction. Afterward, CST specialty detection and response equipment functionality was explained to the Fire Brigade members.
“There are a number of branch-outs currently under Brig. Gen. Seck’s responsibility and in every one of those areas that he wants to gain more knowledge,” Gates said. “That specialization resides in Vermont, I think we are going to be scheduling a lot of visits going forward as Brig. Gen. Seck gave out a lot of invitations, it starts informally.”
Gates explained the Senegalese Fire Brigade has a long-standing tradition of officer and non-commissioned officer exchanges. “This was the latest iteration of these exchanges and the first time Brig. Gen. Seck, visited Vermont.” The VTNG State Partnership Program with Senegal began in 2008.