By Brandon Butler, Director/Chief Instructor, TRS
I was fortunate enough to be chosen to teach overseas in Malaysia last year. It was quite an experience working with other cultures and the techniques they employed for
Fire Suppression and Technical Rescue. The Malaysian Fire Service, or Bomba as they are known there, are quite different from the fire services in the US and Europe.
They are a branch of the military and are a national fire service, instead of a city or county service. I was very interested in how the country’s fire and rescue service was adapted to the region. For example, some of the standard skills taught to the Bomba are jungle survival and handling the deadly King Cobra–definitely not something taught to regular US fire service personnel. The academy has locations all over the country and in all types of terrain.
The Bomba are always eager to learn more about their jobs and are quite internally competitive. The Officers we taught were always respectful and asked some great questions; they were eager to learn and apply their knowledge in the subjects at hand. I thoroughly enjoyed the classroom discussions and view points from the students. As for the job itself, they are dedicated and very driven to improve and develop new techniques for their particular positions.
One of the things that made this trip so enjoyable was the locals and our Bomba escorts. Other than the language barrier, I never felt out of place. One evening, we were even invited to a street food festival. All of the US instructors obviously stuck out, which made us easily noticed by the locals. While we walked through the festival, instead of being made to feel unwelcome or unwanted, we were greeted with kindness and offered many samples of the local foods. At times, the local children would ask about us or want to take pictures. The street food was great and very tasty which, I have to say, was a highlight for this foodie.
I was very proud to get to teach the Bomba and learn so much about their fire service. The experience was one I will always remember from learning firsthand about the Malaysian culture to the techniques employed by fire and rescue services around the world. Yet, while the experience was one I will certainly never forget, upon landing back in the US, all I could think of was a cold beer and a big hamburger…some things will never change.