Update from MIRG member Gerd Buys

Gerd Buys from the Belgian MIRG team has completed half of his training programme and things are going well. He has written this special report for  the MIRG website.

We have made good progress in our training to become fully fledged MIRG members – and about time, I should say! The more I get to know about it, the more interested I become, and we have already learned so much.

The last-but-one course that I took was the Command and Control course at the main station of the Antwerp Fire Service. This course for officers and non-commissioned officers was supervised by our two English instructors, and focused mainly on all the theoretical knowledge required to guarantee the efficient functioning of the MIRG. During a tough two-day programme, the entire procedure was examined and dealt with in great detail, from the beginning of the intervention to the transfer of the ship, including all the related tasks.

During this course everyone gained a better impression of the specific tasks that they would be able and willing to carry out. There it became very clear to me that anything is possible for a non-commissioned officer, so I will regularly have to take a close look at everything in order to ensure that I am well prepared at all times. The course ended with a tough exercise. Two groups working separately tackled a complete case. Putting theory into practice was very rewarding, and the competitive element between the two teams added to the fun. In short, this course was fascinating but definitely not easy. However, I have every confidence that our group will be able to execute successful interventions.

The last course I followed was the sea survival and HUET in Rotterdam. This was more of a physical training, although it was essential to keep a clear head. I was mainly pleasantly surprised by the very professional supervision and smart training infrastructure. After a brief but challenging theoretical background requiring independent study, we were finally ready for action. Sea survival, HUET and “swimming” with breathing apparatus (BA) – these activities are right up my street. I have always loved the water, so this was great fun!

In fairness I have to admit that everything looked much easier than it actually was, but, as with everything, practice makes perfect. If you do exactly what the instructors tell you to do, there is never any danger. However, I definitely think that a follow-up is needed.

Finally I would like to stress the importance of teamwork and comradeship. Our MIRG is a highly diverse and professional group. It is immediately obvious that everyone has signed up voluntarily for this very challenging task. There are never any complaints, and we are all ready to help one another regardless of rank and corps. I think this is unique and commendable. It is a good thing, too, as in the future we will certainly have to rely on one another, on land, in the sea and in the air.

I would like to end with a small anecdote. A few weeks ago we had a fairly severe fire on a ship in our harbour. Our Antwerp colleagues were also present, and I immediately noticed a MIRG member with whom I consulted. Our chief fire officer, another MIRG member, soon arrived on the scene as well, and the intervention was tackled quickly and effectively. The success of this intervention was probably partly due to our MIRG knowledge.

Sgt Gerd Buys

Beveren Fire Service