In the Life of Marines: ARFF
MCAS FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- Military occupational specialties are the foundation of the Marine Corps. Each MOS is a cog, working with and relying on each other to keep the fighting machine that is the United States Marine Corps running. Aircraft rescue and firefighting is one such MOS.
ARFF specialists are Marines who are rigorously trained to handle emergency aircraft situations. They combat aircraft fires, assist with any casualties encountered, and if an aircraft cannot land unassisted, ARFF Marines are there to minimize the impact.
ARFF specialist are charged with upholding the highest level of safety standards. They are sent to the Firefighting and Rescue School at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, to learn how to shoulder this responsibility. There, they spend three months learning the proper procedures for fire and rescue, the different aircrafts the Marine Corps uses, and how to contain fuel fires. They learn how to cope with the sweltering heat in the protective gear they use, how to use their adrenaline to push all but the task at hand out of their minds and about the pride that is ignited within them knowing they make the difference.
Filled with confidence after graduation, they are not complacent with what they learned. No, they continue to expand on their knowledge with monthly, biannual and annual training.
“For our training, we have quarterly training fires where we have to put out a fire in a live environment,” said Cpl. Luke Magliarditi, an ARFF specialist with Headquarter and Headquarters Squadron. “We have annual firefighter physical training and we also have to maintain all of our certifications. Our main ones are hazmat awareness, hazmat operations and the ARFF certification, which is a primary certification we use to do our job.”
Training fires are conducted at the pit. There, towering infernos bellow into the night sky feeding on diesel and jet fuel. Marines work together in teams methodically putting out the blaze. During the day, ARFF Marines practice their techniques with wet runs. This means the Marines can be told to suit up at a moment’s notice, ensuring they are on their toes in the event of a real emergency.
“Classroom training is just as important,” said Sgt. Andrew Busby, an ARFF specialist section leader with H&HS. “We look at the different aircrafts and learn their traits. We need to understand how many people could be on it or places that could cause injury. Where is the gas line, the air lines and those sorts of things? Without this knowledge, how do we expect to properly do our job?”
Marines in this field face many challenges. They must to be mentally prepared with the knowledge of all the procedures and different aircraft they may encounter. They have to be physically prepared, the equipment is heavy and casualties will need to be moved to safety. They must also have the fortitude to trust in their training and bodies to react appropriately in an emergency situation.
“The most challenging part of my job is being prepared for the next emergency,” said Busby. “I can run all the different scenarios in my head but the next emergency could be anything. All we can do is training, training and more training. I have to challenge my Marines with more ideas, more situations. We have to hone our skills and be prepared for any emergency.”
ARFF Marines are dedicated to serving and protecting. They train day in and day out with 48-hour-on and 48-hour-off shifts, ensuring there is always a team on call to keep the airfield, crew and aircraft safe. They train in icy cold and the blistering heat in ARFF proximity turnout suits, affectionately call the “baked potato suit” because of its silver color. They are intimately acquainted with the danger they court during every encounter, but they willingly face it down, giving their all without hesitation or fear.
“What drives me is the promise,” said Busby. “When we walk in the door, we promise we will do our best when the time calls for us. We know we are providing an essential service to the flight line and the crews. We are always in the mindset that we are there for them and we are ready to do what is needed.”