ARFF Marines train for any emergency
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- When potential panic involving a downed aircraft ensues, the Marines of Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting act as one of the first response teams on the scene. With the raging flames engulfing the aircraft, the ARFF Marines quickly rush to work dowsing the flames in a relentless battle against time and heat.
ARFF Marines on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma stand ready to respond to any crisis 24/7.
“We provide the air station with fire prevention and protection for permanent and transient aircraft,” said Chief Warrant Officer Brent DeBusk, the officer-in-charge of ARFF, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, MCAS Futenma, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “We also support the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing when they conduct training.
“An example of that is when a squadron deploys as part of a Marine expeditionary unit. We help train them in shipboard firefighting; they have to know (it) before they leave,” added DeBusk
Training with Marines and sailors is only one way the Marines of ARFF help MCAS Futenma.
“We also train with fire departments from local communities in hands-on exercises and quarterly tabletop exercises,” said DeBusk. “We not only train with them, but can also help them should they need it.”
To accomplish their missions, the Marines have specialized tools and vehicles at their disposal.
“We have six P-19 ARFF vehicles, two rescue vehicles and one water tender,” said DeBusk. “The P-19s are the main firefighting vehicle with the rest acting as support.”
No matter what the vehicle is, the Marines have to perform checks every morning to ensure proper readiness of the equipment.
“After the Marines have looked over the vehicles at the station, we do a wet run,” said Staff Sgt. Michael L. Rivera, a section chief with ARFF. “A wet run consists of the Marines driving the trucks out onto the taxiway and then testing both turrets and all of the hoses on the vehicle.”
Being able to put out the fire is only half of the battle that these Marines face.
“On the rescue vehicles we have the wheel fan, which can be used to cool down hot brakes or wheels, and to ventilate rooms when required,” said Cpl. John E. Stitt III, an ARFF specialist. “We also have a combination tool, shears, blocks, airbags, medical equipment, a buddy breather, fire extinguishers and a K-12 fire rescue saw.”
Each piece of equipment is used in its own way to save lives during a rescue.
“The combination tool is a combination of the shears and spreaders,” said Stitt. “The airbags are used to raise an aircraft or vehicle off the ground and then the blocks are used to stabilize it. The K-12 is the other tool in our arsenal for getting into an aircraft.”
The tools to extract personnel from downed aircraft or vehicles are used in conjunction with life saving equipment.
“We have first aid equipment to take care of many injuries,” said Stitt. “Some of our more crucial pieces of equipment are the neck and back braces that keep the victim from shifting unnecessarily, preventing further injury.”
The medical supplies are futile in effect if the firefighters’ personal equipment are not working properly.
“Our masks and tanks have (attachments) that make our jobs easier while suited up,” said Rivera. “The mask has a mouthpiece that is synched with the radio to allow better communication between personnel. The tank has two stages of pressure reducers which allow us to breathe uninterrupted and without worry.
“There’s also an alarm system that lets the firefighter know when the air (is low),” added Rivera. “Our computer system lets us know where the Marines are and if they’re moving. That allows us to keep track of the Marines when they do their jobs.”
All of the equipment and vehicles allow the Marines to perform their specialty with precision and confidence.
“The Marines perform an excellent balancing act with all of the required actions that they do every day, not to mention the training required by the Marine Corps,” said DeBusk. “They work some of the longest and toughest hours of any military occupational specialty in the Marine Corps. They do not get holidays, long weekends or much family time. They sacrifice a lot for this but they enjoy what they do.”