January 21, 2009 (by Col. Dean Anderson) - I had heard that Shaw was home to the finest Airmen in our Air Force. In just two weeks after my arrival, I had an experience that proved it.
USAF F-16C block 50 #00-0223 from the 79th FS is submerged in foam after the fire suppression system in Hangar 1200 at Shaw AFB was activated on January 17th, 2009. The quick response from Shaw's Airmen resulted in minimal damage to Air Force assets.
A fire alarm was activated Jan. 17 in Hangar 1200, our exercise Transition Area, at 8:15 a.m. This resulted in the fire suppression system releasing foam into the hangar. The foam was approximately 17 feet deep.
At this time, the reason for the fire alarm activation is under investigation. However, what I saw that Saturday morning was a demonstration of selfless and professional service that is unrivaled.
There were three F-16s in the hangar that morning -- approximately $75 million worth of aircraft, not to mention the value of all of the maintenance equipment and the building itself. My biggest fear was our valuable combat assets would be damaged if we delayed any portion of the cleanup. As it turns out, that fear was unwarranted.
It started with the response to the alarm. No flying was expected at Shaw that morning, so it would have been easy for our fire department to have let their guard down. That was not the case ... their response was superb.
Because the fire department was on scene so fast, they were able to quickly verify that there was no fire and turned the fire suppression system off, preventing the foam from reaching one of our jets. They immediately turned their attention to clean up.
Within 10 minutes of the fire alarm activation, we had maintenance personnel at the site. And shortly after that, we had identified Lt. Col. Derek Scott, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, as the incident response commander. What I saw after that was truly amazing.
The Maintenance and Mission Support Groups, with the assistance of our bioenvironmental personnel, stepped up. Col. Robert Hopkins, 20th MXG commander, and Col. Ted Uchida, 20th MSG commander, led their troops. They called Airmen to help clean out the hangar. The bioenvironmental personnel verified the foam is soap based and did not pose an environmental hazard to personnel. In fact, only two gallons of the suppressant was used.
By 10 a.m. the foam was being pushed out of the hangar and by 3 p.m. I couldn't tell there had been a problem. My Safety personnel tell me, because of the quick response by Team Shaw, there is very minimal damage to the facility and the aircraft -- "Sierra Hotel
As the "new guy" here at Shaw, I am very impressed. After the professionalism, dedication and "get it done" attitude I saw that day, I believe my assignment here will be the best of my career. If we display that same can-do attitude and work ethic during our upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection, we'll be off the chart "Outstanding."
My thanks go out to Team Shaw for their incredible effort Saturday morning and turning what could have been a disaster into an inspirational moment. Great work!
Team Shaw: Fly, Fight, Win!