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Training keeps ARFF Marines prepared

By Cpl. Elyssa Quesada | | September 11, 2009

Before the sun rises, shadows move around in the dark as Marines with Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting prepare for another day of training at the Air Station burn pit during a routine training exercise involving propane fires.

The Marines don their gear and take their positions in front of the P-19 preparing for the first session of fires. The flames are lit, water is pumped through the hoses and the crews move forward to extinguish the blaze.

Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Marines use this type of training to hone their skills and confidence in all possible situations. At the simulated crash site, located at the Air Stationburn pit, the Marines attack the fire erupting from the body of the Mobile Aircraft Firefighting Training Device.

The fires help to improve younger Marines’ abilities as a member of ARFF, while keeping them in a controlled environment.

“This type of training gives our new Marines a chance to learn their job,” said Cpl. Eric Barrois, a rescueman with ARFF. “It’s all about getting hands-on experience and getting the chance to work with all the equipment, because when something does happen, we’ve got to be ready for it.”

Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Marines conduct fires once a month for each crew, to ensure they get the training they need.

“I think they do top-notch training here,” said Master Sgt. Michael Joiner, the ARFF staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “They have great training equipment out here. We don’t get to do our job hands-on all the time, so staying on top of training keeps us ready.”

The Marines use the MAFTD and a hydrocarbon fuel F/A-18 Hornet structure. The MAFTD is a more controlled burn, keeping the Marines safer, according to Joiner. With the hydrocarbon fuel fires, there is no control. The Marines have to put out the fire through technique, he added.

“My job as the safety Marine is important because if something goes wrong, I control the flames,” said Sgt. Bryon Hancock, a safety supervisor with ARFF. “There are numerous safety Marines during training, if they see anything wrong, the training stops immediately.”

 “Once the fire is extinguished, I feel a sense of accomplishment,” Barrois said. “At the same time, you think about the things you may not have done perfectly and try to improve on your mistakes.”

While some of the Marines are new to ARFF, the experienced Marines used the training to improve their abilities and learn new techniques.

“It’s all about technique,” Barrois said. “Once you’re in a situation, it’s important to remember your training. With technique, the fire goes out faster.”

No scenario is the same. It’s not ever a text book emergency, according to Joiner.

“After training, I feel more confident that I now have the knowledge to not only save the pilot but the man to your left and right,” Barrois said.