Marines rehearse aircraft fire response
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- A red-orange blaze erupts, illuminating the dark of night. Marines confront the dancing flames in the training pit with hoses jetting water to combat the fire.
Marines assigned to Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting, Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron, executed live-burn training Feb. 21 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa.
The ARFF Marines also trained Marines with Bulk Fuel Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, in firefighting basics, teaching them how to mitigate a fuel fire from a distance using a five-man “rain-down” method before ARFF arrives on scene.
During the training, Marine bulk fuel specialists poured fuel into a training pit, where an ARFF Marine ignited a live-fuel fire. The Marines then worked in teams of four, communicating with hand and arm signals and using handline hoses to contain and extinguish the fire efficiently. The drill ensured the Marines remained proficient in aircraft fire and rescue procedures in the event of aircraft fires due to fuel leakage or collision.
The Marines trained in austere live-burn conditions in which they were exposed to real hazards, such as close proximity to the live-fuel fire. They wore personal protective equipment called proximity gear, which included face shields, thermal jackets, trousers and boots. The equipment is made primarily of aluminized polybenzimidazole, a material that maximizes the reflection of heat and is used in astronaut suits for thermal protection.
Live-burn training provides the Marines an opportunity to prepare for a realistic situation, according to Lance Cpl. Cody G. Bennett, a crew chief with ARFF, H&HS, MCAS Futenma.
“It gives a really good hands-on experience to Marines instead of watching videos or demonstrations,” said Bennett, a Winnebago, Wisconsin, native. “It’s a real-life fire with real hazards. It requires teamwork and communication.”
ARFF Marines are the firefighting force for the airfield and the first responders for fires both on the flightline and elsewhere on base, as well as in situations that require tactical support, according to Sgt. Dallas S. Liebe, the assistant section leader with the squadron.
“We serve as rapid intervention,” said Liebe, a Fall City, Washington, native. “Even though the airfield will be closed sometimes, we will always be here 24 hours per day, seven days per week.”
ARFF is responsible for many roles in addition to extinguishing fires, according to Sgt. Shane C. Phelps, an ARFF specialist with the squadron.
“There are technical aspects, such as emergency response, hazmat technicians and search and rescue,” said Phelps, a Perris, California, native.
The live-burn training is executed frequently to better train Marines, according to Cpl. David D. Enriquez, an ARFF specialist with the squadron.
“We are giving our Marines the best training possible for a real situation, in which fuel were to be spilled and there were an ignition source that could cause a fire,” said Enriquez, a Rosenberg, Texas, native. “That’s what is important — making sure Marines are trained and able to perform the best they possibly can.”
Rehearsing in realistic scenarios allows the ARFF Marines to develop team-building skills and trust each other.
“We couldn’t do it without each other,” said Bennett. “Without teamwork, we don’t have anything. It’s too much for one person.”