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Driving Innovation: 97 AMW Fire Department Gets New Simulators

Jonathan Matthews, a firefighter assigned to the 97th AMW Fire Department, drives a firetruck driving simulator Jan. 15, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The simulator comes with scenarios built in, but can also be customized for brand new scenarios, allowing firefighters to hone their skills in a variety of situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Jonathan Matthews, a firefighter assigned to the 97th AMW Fire Department, drives a firetruck driving simulator Jan. 15, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The simulator comes with scenarios built in, but can also be customized for brand new scenarios, allowing firefighters to hone their skills in a variety of situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

A driving simulator and a fire truck pump simulator are stationed inside of the 97th Air Mobility Wing Fire Department, Jan. 15, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Both simulators are coordinated together to create mission simulations that follow a narrative starting from driving to a scene and ending with fighting the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

A driving simulator and a fire truck pump simulator are stationed inside of the 97th Air Mobility Wing Fire Department, Jan. 15, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Both simulators are coordinated together to create mission simulations that follow a narrative starting from driving to a scene and ending with fighting the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Philip Fourroux, the fire chief assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing Fire department, prepares a driving simulation scenario, Jan. 15, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The simulator allows firefighters to train on driving skills without putting wear on the actual vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Philip Fourroux, the fire chief assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing Fire department, prepares a driving simulation scenario, Jan. 15, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The simulator allows firefighters to train on driving skills without putting wear on the actual vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Jonathan Matthews, a firefighter assigned to the 97th AMW Fire Department, drives a firetruck driving simulator Jan. 15, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The operator can change the weather conditions so the driver can learn how to drive in poor conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Jonathan Matthews, a firefighter assigned to the 97th AMW Fire Department, drives a firetruck driving simulator Jan. 15, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The operator can change the weather conditions so the driver can learn how to drive in poor conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Jonathan Matthews, a firefighter assigned to the 97th AMW Fire Department, grips the steering wheel on a driving simulator Jan 15., 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The simulator is used to help train vehicle operations while outdoor conditions are not ideal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Jonathan Matthews, a firefighter assigned to the 97th AMW Fire Department, grips the steering wheel on a driving simulator Jan 15., 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The simulator is used to help train vehicle operations while outdoor conditions are not ideal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Philip Fourroux, the fire chief assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing Fire department, shows Jonathan Matthews, a firefighter assigned to the 97th AMW Fire Department, the directions to his destination before he operates a driving simulator, Jan. 15, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The simulator is one of three that allow the 97th AMW firefighters to train indoors on firefighting techniques, operating a water pump and driving various vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Philip Fourroux, the fire chief assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing Fire department, shows Jonathan Matthews, a firefighter assigned to the 97th AMW Fire Department, the directions to his destination before he operates a driving simulator, Jan. 15, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The simulator is one of three that allow the 97th AMW firefighters to train indoors on firefighting techniques, operating a water pump and driving various vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

The 97th Air Mobility Wing Fire Department has made their dedication to innovation clear with the recent addition of simulators to assist in training, and the third simulator has recently arrived.

The first two simulators consisted of utilizing virtual reality to practice fighting fires with a hose and a trainer for the pump systems on a firetruck. These can cover a large amount of what goes into fighting a fire but the newest simulator fills the gap.

“It’s a driving simulator,” said Philip Fourroux, the fire chief for the 97th AMW Fire Department. “It allows us to train how to drive at a really low risk.”

The simulator is equipped with four 55” LED displays and a driving cab complete with a driver’s setup, a passenger seat and a hydraulic system similar to the aircraft simulators also found on base.

“Obviously, the controls aren’t perfect,” said Fourroux. “You are never going to fully replicate the feeling of driving. It’s the muscle memory that this allows us to teach; that’s invaluable.”

While the three simulators are not necessarily focused on the military or manufactured with the intent to work together, the fire department created an innovative solution where all three now work together in a single process.

“We got in contact with the makers of the pump system trainers,” said Fourroux. “The remade pumps look exactly like the pump system on our trucks. With the firefighting simulator, we worked to get a C-17 in there to work on aircraft fires.”

The simulators are ran by trainers who incorporate the simulations into a chronological event.

“We can start out with driving the fire truck,” said Fourroux. “Once they get to the scene, they can hop over to the pump simulator and get everything ready before they get on the VR headset and actually fight the fire. We’ve incorporated our five-level upgrade training in the systems to the Airmen can practice before the real thing.”

A large focus in all of the simulators is saving money and resources for the base and to improve our current and future operations.

“Every time we go out there to train, we’re using resources and putting wear on our gear,” said Fourroux. “We have to go out and do a driving course on every vehicle. When we go out there and practice in the vehicles themselves, we’re putting wear on them as well as putting a vehicle out of commission for that time. With the simulators, we can train and get the feel for it before we even go out. It cuts hours and saves thousands of dollars.”

With the evolution of technology, the next generation of Airmen are receiving opportunities that the older generations could not have dreamed of.

“As a young firefighter, this would’ve been invaluable,” said Fourroux. “The extra training that they get puts them miles ahead of anyone in their shoes 50 years ago. It’s only going up from here.”

While the simulators may look like cool toys on the outside, they are much more than that. They are a step towards the future of innovative training, allowing the firefighters to be the best they can be when the time comes.

“This helps us be ready,” said Fourroux. “This training can save lives.”