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In case of emergency; ARFF anti-terrorism training helps prepare for the worst

1 May 2009 | Pvt. Spencer M. Hardwick

Hope for the best; train for the worst.

A motto that Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Marines aboard the Air Station live and work by. They train everyday, so they’re ready for anything.

One such training event was held on the flightline Monday through Wednesday. The exercise was conducted as part of the Air Station’s annual anti-terrorism training, and consisted of a simulated aircraft crash and a mass casualty drill with chemical contamination.

“This is one of those jobs that you love to do and hate to do,” said Sgt. Robert Tidquist, a rescueman with ARFF. “You want to do your job because it’s what you’re trained to do, but it’s not a good thing if you actually have to do it.”

The new Mobile Aircraft Firefighting Training Device was used for the simulated crash. The device is a portable aircraft skeleton that has multiple flash points for fires to erupt, as well as a cockpit to evacuate pilots. Teams responded to the “crash” and immediately began drenching the hull with water. Once they evacuated the “pilot,” and checked to ensure they were no secondary flames, the Marines then checked to make sure everything was safe and returned to the station for a debrief.

“I’ve been a part of four or five incidents like that and it doesn’t happen like you’d think,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Kunz, the ARFF training chief. “Everything just comes together and people react according to their training. There’s no chaos, just a natural reaction to the situation.”

After the “crash”, a simulated mass casualty with chemical contamination occurred near building 601. As role-playing Marines and sailors scattered the area with simulated injuries, Marines with bleach-white decontamination suits and gas masks rushed to set-up stations to cleanse and decontaminate them. The “injured” were scrubbed down, rinsed off and quarantined, simulating what would happen if an aircraft filled with chemicals exploded and covered bystanders.

“These kinds of things don’t happen often, but we have to be prepared if they do,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brian

Patrick, the ARFF staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “It’s essential to be prepared for the worst case scenario. We’re saving lives and putting our own at risk. That’s something we take seriously so we have these things to help us know where we stand.”