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New HAZMAT team protects Fightertown

29 Oct 2004 | Cpl. Kat Johnson

Eighteen Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort's Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting  unit trained Oct. 22, to be certified as Department of Defense Hazardous Material Technicians.

The Hazardous Material Technicians will be responsible for securing chemical and biological warfare and weapons of mass destruction that may endanger the Air Station or the surrounding community.

“We learn so much in such a short time, that one days’ worth of information can take two days to master,” said Cpl. Johnnie Walters, crash crewman, ARFF. “Regardless, the course is exciting and a good certification to have, especially when it helps the Air Station so much.”

The 18 Marines are part of 34, who only have two weeks to master more than 23 practical and manual applications of the HAZMAT manual to obtain a certification. The International Fire Service Accreditation Congress will endorse the certificates after course completion. The IFSAC is an organization established to increase the level of accreditation of assemblies in the fire service community.

“Every portion of the class is a pass or fail criteria,” said Daniel Glembot, civilian instructor, HAZMAT team. “Once we have taught the course, we must be 100 percent sure that all lessons learned will be performed precisely. There is no room for error in a job like this.”

For ten hours a day, seven days a week, the Marines work together as a team to learn the four levels of protective gear, types of hazardous materials, how to recognize dangerous chemicals and the proper ways to contain and transport Hazmat.

“The training these Marines are receiving goes above and beyond their everyday job qualifications,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ryan D. Nix. “Of my 17 years in the service, I’ve never seen a group of Marines more dedicated to getting the job done.”

Once the Marines receive their certifications they will serve as a back-up team for the Air Stations Department of Defense Hazmat team.

When deployed, the ARFF HAZMAT team will serve as the primary response force during  situations that involve hazardous materials.

"There will be no one to determine whether they are doing the job correctly in the field,” Nix said. “That’s why it’s so important that they not only acquire the knowledge, but also understand and use it properly.”

During the course, Marines trained at various stations securing gas leaks and packaging hazardous materials for transport. Once the stations were complete, the Marines also practiced the proper techniques for decontamination.

Although, decontamination is one of the last steps performed by a HAZMAT team, it is one of the most important, according to Cpl. Jimmy MacNevin crash crewman, ARFF. The decon team is responsible for cleaning all items used by field workers and  ensures all equipment and personnel are no longer contaminated before leaving a hazardous area.

When the Hazmat team takes their final test today, they will have completed more than 140 hours of training, become skilled with at least six pieces of protection gear and mastered the importance of teamwork, according to Walters.

“It’s just another part of our job that makes sure we can provide the very best assistance at all times,” MacNevin said. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”