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By Donna Cipolloni

Tester staff writer

Next time you hear the siren from a police car or firefighting apparatus at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, rest assured the responding vehicle is being operated by a well-trained driver.

Fire and emergency services

Every Pax River firefighter at the GS-06 level and above is required to obtain the necessary licensing and training certifications to operate every type of vehicle utilized by the department, including pickups, crash trucks and the four different aircraft firefighting rescue vehicles found here on the installation, said Capt. Mike Miedzinski, acting training officer.

“Everyone gets trained,” he said. “No individual is assigned to any one vehicle, so we might be driving anything — and we need to be prepared.”

Miedzinski explained that firefighters require not only a Maryland Class B non-commercial driver’s license, but must also possess a DOD driver’s license for each apparatus, plus an airfield driver’s license in order to operate safely on the airfield.

“We must be proficient with each vehicle,” Miedzinski said. “Larger vehicles operate differently, especially the crash trucks. The center of gravity is higher [in larger vehicles] and they can roll over easier, take longer to brake and have a wider turning radius.”

In addition to passing written tests and equipment checklists for each vehicle, firefighters must complete the Emergency Vehicle Operator Course (EVOC) driving practical where they demonstrate their skill in backing up, turning, alley docking, offsetting lanes, stab braking, serpentine driving, etc. All of this is conducted under the tutelage of one of the department’s seven qualified EVOC instructors. Having been certified by master EVOC instructors, they are required to attend a renewal course every three years through the DOD Naval Safety Center.

Once a firefighter completes the driver packet for an emergency vehicle and earns their certification, they’re able to be utilized as an operator for that vehicle.

“They are then required to complete another emergency vehicle packet until [training on] all vehicles is accomplished,” Miedzinski explained.

Public safety department

Police officers and masters-at-arms working in the public safety department are required to complete a 40-hour EVOC course comprising classroom instruction, a written exam and a driving course practical application.

The driving course, dotted with cones, presents five basic obstacles to overcome: perpendicular parking; forward and reverse-angle parking; parallel parking, right and left side; threshold braking — coming to a complete stop without locking the wheels and skidding; and evasive split-second steering.

“We’re testing for observation and reflexes,” said Capt. James Williams, Naval District Washington police training officer assigned to NAS Pax River. “Unlike the fire department, our training is more generic because we don’t drive the extra-large vehicles. Along with the EVOC certification, we require a valid state operator’s license.”

In order to stay at the top of their game and maintain their necessary licenses and certifications, each department has ongoing classroom and practical training, occurring every year or every three years, as required.