Hanscom CGO answers the call

  • Published
  • By Mark Wyatt
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
With the warmer weather finally here, active duty servicemembers, many of whom may be in New England for the first time, spend their off duty time visiting Boston, hiking in New Hampshire or Vermont or visiting beaches in Maine or Rhode Island - all within a few hours' drive from here. Although for one Hanscom company grade officer, he'll find another time to sightsee.

For now, Capt. Michael Biederman enjoys spending much of his off duty time fighting fires or responding to medical emergency calls in Princeton, Mass. where he currently lives during his assignment to the Battle Management Directorate.

Inspired by a brush fire along a stretch of railroad tracks near his house, Biederman, who participated in a Wildland Fire Fighting course his senior year at Virginia Tech, said he wanted to put those skills to more practical use.

"Last spring I came home from work and there was a three-to-five mile stretch of railroad tracks burning from a brush fire a couple of hundred yards from my house," said the CGO who is a program manager in the Intelligence Systems Branch. "That experience got me thinking after seeing my town's local fire department engaged in fighting the brush fire so close to my house."

From the course while in college, Biederman received his wildland firefighting card, something that provided him the opportunity to go to any Wildland Firefighting Brush Company in the United States.

And until being motivated by that fire so close to his house; Biederman didn't do much with the skills he learned until last fall when the CGO began working with the Princeton Fire Department.

"After completing a few months of training last fall, in January I got my gear and radio and have been responding to calls regularly ever since," he said.

Impressed by his willingness to serve in other ways, Biederman's military leadership didn't hesitate when he asked for the opportunity to accept the part-time position.

"Captain Biederman's firefighting is a natural extension of the volunteerism and service that he signed up for when he joined the Air Force," said Lt. Col. Michael P. McGivern, Intelligence Systems Branch materiel leader. "Whether there's a conflict in Southeast Asia or a brush fire in western Mass -- he's a fighter you want on your side."

In addition to fighting fires, Biederman provides emergency medical services during calls.

"In March I had my first opportunity to perform the emergency medical skills that I learned while in the Air Force," he said. "Even though I had gone through CPR training with the fire department last fall, I had also just gone through the Air Force's Self-Aid and Buddy Care training - that really helped reinforce the CPR training I received from the fire department and vice versa."

CPR skills that are vital to savings lives when responding to an emergency call or on the battlefield.

The community of Princeton is a little more than 3,000 people, many of whom are elderly. Biederman says he often responds to many flu-like symptom calls.

One such call Biederman recalls was a 57 year old patient who required CPR for more than 30 minutes.

"It was a bad situation but I felt with the Air Force and Fire Department training I had received, I was properly able respond," Biederman said.

John Bennett, Princeton's fire chief and former Air Force ROTC cadet at Norwich University, appreciates how the military develops their personnel.

They use critical tools and skills when emergencies arise, the fire chief said, adding that Biederman has been exposed to a lot of challenging calls and has not hesitated when asked to act.

Biederman notes, as an example, the first opportunity he had to fight a fire.

"The call came at 1:10 a.m. and we were on scene at 1:30 a.m.," he said. "We were the first truck on scene for a fire in a dumpster; I was on the hose with another guy knocking it down enough to try and keep it from spreading to a barn that was right next to it."

The fire chief explained that Biederman's response was not surprising.

"He found himself on the hose line attacking both the dumpster fire and the fire that started to expand into the gable end of a barn that was full of classic cars," Bennett explained. "The fire was a great stop and we saved the barn. Michael was front and center and exposed to the pressure that will ensue when you have a homeowner screaming at you to save his belongings."

Biederman said the similarities in fighting fires and serving in the military are significant.

"When I first arrive on the scene of a fire, my training kicks-in -- the first thing I do is put on my air pack and grab the fire hose and get-up next to the firefighter in front of me so that we can operate as a team," he said. "Everything needs to happen correctly in order to keep water on the target."

He adds that everyone needs to know their job, work together and listen to the orders that are coming from the fire chief or officer in charge, and pay attention to what is going on around you.

"These same skills are fundamental in the military as well," said Biederman.

He added it's critical everyone understands their role - whether in the Intelligence Systems Branch or in the fire department.