By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Fire Department’s elite “pararescue/paramedic” program was celebrating its 10th anniversary today.

Government agencies sometimes have limited funding and limited resources, Philadelphia fire commissioner Derrick Sawyer noted today at the Fire Academy, in Northeast Philadelphia.  He said that was the driving force behind the Philadelphia Fire Department’s joint program with the US Air Force to train Air Force personnel in fire and rescue techniques.

“I want to thank the Air Force for being a partner,” Sawyer said today, “because you could have chosen another fire department.  And it allowed us to be the premier fire department in the country training th premier organization in the country.”

Each student of the eight-week program is partnered with a Philadelphia fire service paramedic who observes and instructs the Air Force member on how actual emergency calls in the city are handled.

The graduates become “pararescue” specialists who go on recovery and medical treatment missions in humanitarian and combat environments.

Other partners in the program, helping students work on their clinical skills, include Drexel University’s college of medicine, Hahnemann University Hospital, and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.