Seven men from Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest energy company, had little idea what they were embarking on when they set off to begin their Fellowship with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department (MBFD) on September 4. MBFD, a premiere South Carolina department, welcomed the Saudi firefighters with traditional Southern hospitality, inviting them to a Pelican’s baseball game and treating them as their own.
Only days into their orientation, Captain James Clement who is managing the project for MBFD, found himself briefing his new mentees on hurricane preparedness as Florence gained momentum. They quickly decided that the firefighters – Yousef, Ali, Ahmad, Adel, Munahe, Fayez and Mohammed – would not evacuate but would stay with MBFD for the entire operational period at Fire Station 3 with 30 other department personnel. First, the seven men had already gained Captain Clement’s trust and, second, this would be invaluable operational experience for them. Most importantly, the Saudi Aramco firefighters refused to leave their new family.
From Wednesday, September 12, to Saturday, September 15, the Saudi Aramco firefighters helped with hurricane preparation at Station 3 (such as boarding up windows) and then participated in damage assessment. They also bonded with Station 3‑B shift by cooking and working out together.
Even though Hurricane Florence ate into the initial Fellowship training period, MBFD Training Chief Eells felt that the Saudi Aramco firefighters had proven their skills, grit and heart during this operational period. Chief Eells and Captain Clement feel confident that they would be able accelerate their training/orientation period to still release the Saudi Aramco firefighters to the stations by October 1.
It’s an unshakable fact that the week of September 11 is difficult for the American fire service. The Saudi Aramco firefighters that take part in the IFP understand this. They are typically eager to demonstrate to their American counterparts that they grasp the depth of this trauma and that, they too, stand against terrorism. Taking part in the hurricane preparedness activities helped Cohort 13 turn emotion into action and establish strong bonds with Myrtle Beach Fire Department.
Cohort 13 is spending the last week of September at the MBFD Training Academy, reviewing equipment, SOPs and tactics. As of October 1, the City of Myrtle Beach will have seven additional firefighters from the other side of the world serving its citizens for five months.
A special thank you to Fire Chief Tom Gwyer, Deputy Fire Chief Ian Maxwell, Captain James Clement, Chief Eells, Yousef, Ali, Ahmad, Adel, Munahe, Fayez, Mohammed and John Morris.