U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kimberly Ortiz Marrero, a native of Lancaster, N.Y. and the hazardous material and safety representative for 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, stands while being decontaminated during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan H. Pulliam)
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kimberly Ortiz Marrero, a native of Lancaster, N.Y. and the hazardous material and safety representative for 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, stands while being decontaminated during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan H. Pulliam)

Service members and civilians learn to respond to hazardous materials

by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam
U.S. Marine Corps

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa, Japan – U.S. Marines, sailors and civilians participated in the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan from Sept. 16 to Sept. 20, 2019.

The class is meant to teach students how to both fully understand and effectively respond to emergency situations where dangerous chemicals, substances and materials are found on military installations.

“It’s important that the students have the experience and can use the knowledge on what the threats are and to keep chemicals away from each other,” said Steven Wood, the lead instructor for the HAZWOPER class.

The week-long class consisted mostly of classroom lectures in addition to an entire day devoted to practical application training exercises where the students worked together to solve applicable, but difficult scenarios.

“I think this class is a big learning curve for a lot of the students here,” says Ashley Hoshihara Cruz, the Camp Foster chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive specialist. “However, the students are really putting in the resources, time and effort to make this a quality class.”

To encourage teamwork and strengthen leadership capabilities in the class, Wood said that the junior Marines in the class may be placed in leadership roles and find themselves guiding officers and staff noncommissioned officers through tasks the senior Marines may primarily fill.

“It’s really rewarding,” Wood said. “To see these students take the information we, as instructors, gave to them and extract that out to things that we have not talked about, but figured out, nonetheless.”

The HAZWOPER class is conducted on behalf of the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer School and has been taught in Okinawa for the past eight years.

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