Kadena firefighters facilitate joint training
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- It's one thing to talk about what steps to take if a fire breaks out, and something else entirely to combat an out-of-control blaze. For U.S. Marines and sailors operating onboard a ship deployed to the middle of the ocean with no nearby aid, that distinction becomes even more important.
To prepare for shipboard deployments, each member must meet training qualifications, so for the first time in recent history, Navy firefighting instructors used Kadena's facilities to teach roughly 150 Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Wing's Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 during a training course here May 4-8 to ensure they're prepared for their upcoming deployment.
Without the use of the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron's firefighter training area, the Marines would have to travel to another base in the region to maintain their proficiency.
"They had to come to Kadena," said Master Sgt. Benjamin Powell, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief of training for fire and emergency services. "Typically this training is conducted at (Marine Corps Air Station) Futenma, but currently their MAFTD (Mobile Aircraft Firefighting Training Device) is down, and we have the only other active aircraft live fire training simulator on the island, so it's very important for them to actually be able to fill their wartime or peacetime mission deploying through the entire area of responsibility."
One Navy instructor who traveled here from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, for the training said the qualification is vital to anyone spending an extended amount of time on one of the ships.
"They always tell us in the Navy that we're firefighters first, sailors second, just due to the fact that if something does happen, everyone has to know how to combat a fire effectively, because we're the ones who have to put it out, and if we can't control it, then it could risk losing lots of money and equipment and damage the ship," said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeffrey Mullins, shipboard firefighting instructor. "This training is valuable due to the fact that when we're on deployments, and we're on ships, and if a fire breaks out or an aircraft crashes, we don't have a fire station or firefighters to put out the fire. That's why we all go through firefighting training - so we have that firefighting knowledge of how to put out a fire if it were to break out in the middle of the ocean"
Mullins, who traveled to Okinawa along with several other regionally stationed instructors to conduct the training, said it would cost the U.S. government significantly more to send the Marines to another facility because they would all have to travel out of Okinawa.
"It's a lot cheaper to send six or seven instructors to a place to teach than it is to send a whole squadron of people out to a training facility like Yokosuka or Lemoore or wherever we hold those classes," Mullins said.
Though this is the first time the Air Force facility has been used to train members of the Navy and Marines, the equipment has been used countless times throughout the years to train not only Air Force firefighters, but also local community firefighters as well.
"We like to utilize this training at least once a week," he said. "We're required to have at least two burns a year, so we utilize this one as much as possible. However, it's been up and down, and it's a very antiquated, old piece of equipment - which we're trying to update now - but hopefully this will highlight the fact that we utilize this as a joint asset, not just for the firefighters here on Kadena, but for our local community firefighters, our community firefighters in Naha, and also now, the Marine Corps and the Navy across the island."
Though the bilateral arrangement may not be permanent, Powell said the Air Force at Kadena is ready to continue facilitating the training.
"The MEW should have something eventually, but they're still going to be temporary until they build their own asset, so we expect and anticipate that they'll be calling us again," he said.