Troops battle boredom as well as fires

ENDLESS games of monopoly, TV and computer games is how troops have been passing the time away at the TA centre in Ipswich as they wait to fight fires and save lives.

By Amanda Cresswell

ENDLESS games of monopoly, TV and computer games is how troops have been passing the time away at the TA centre in Ipswich as they wait to fight fires and save lives.

The RAF troops would normally be at their bases elsewhere in the UK or abroad, but instead their jobs have taken a different turn.

In the past eight days they have doused flames at car fires, attended road accidents, house fires and a hero crew even put their lives on the line to enter an Ipswich garage and prevent a car exploding.

Some of their work has been beyond the call of duty. One man, Senior Aircraftsman Craig Brough, based in Lowestoft, put his wedding on hold – twice – in the wake of the strike. He left yesterday to get married and is now back off honeymoon next month.

Pilot Officer Sean Langrish, ordinarily based in North West London, has been working at the makeshift control room in Ipswich (the Green Goddess nerve centre) and found the week quieter than he had imagined.

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Troops, some as far afield as Scotland and Cyprus, work in shifts – 12 hours on and 12 hours off, sleeping at the TA Centre.

"We have found a lot of time goes by without anything to get up to," PO Langrish on the 12-hour day shift. "I am told the number of RTA are down. I think people are being more careful. It is just a shame they can't be like that all the time.

"I find to be in this small room for 12 hours not exactly enthralling. But the guys and crews' find putting out a blaze makes they feel they have done something and helped out.

"There's only so much TV and games to play. But when they are out it gets the adrenaline pumping and I think they really enjoy it." They have been waved at applauded and congratulated on jobs which has boosted morale.

The day time troops get a run of calls in the busiest period 5 pm until 7-8pm, when people come home from work and children get out of school. But he couldn't comment on the night shift.

All the troops involved had received training before the strikes, which they keep updating. "It wasn't a case of they (the troops) getting to a fire and they didn't know what they were doing," explained PO Langrish.

"We trained as much as we could in the time available. There is nothing we went out to that we couldn't have handled. We fight the fire, but our priority is to save lives." But he emphasised their work couldn't compare with the professional fire fighters.

RAF Honington has a fire section so troops using BART (Breathing apparatus rescue team) and deployed in Ipswich are led by experienced professional fire fighters – one with 17 years experience.

A total of 51 troops are based at Ipswich, which has three Green Goddesses and one BART. Police escort them to a call so they know exactly where they are going. In the event of a major fire the troops would take advice from the senior fire officers on best use of resources.

As far as pay packets go PR officer Owen Crossby said he couldn't compare as the forces also get living accommodation.

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