Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. --
Marines from various units aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and personnel with the Natural Resources Environmental Affairs Office participated in a nautical spill response exercise July 11-15.
The intent of the exercise was to maintain proficiency in nautical spill response procedures aboard MCAS Beaufort. The exercise allowed Marines to evaluate environmental and nautical conditions and tactics in order to quickly respond to an oil spill in the waterways leading to the air station.
“We are mandated by the Coast Guard and the [Environmental Protection Agency] to have a Facility Response Team and as part of that we’re required to do so many exercises a year,” said Christopher Vaigneur, the spill response coordinator for NREAO. “I am responsible for making sure that we have enough personnel trained in the response team in case we do have a spill we’re able to respond to it effectively and in a timely manner.”
During the exercise, the participants properly execute a spill contingency plan, hazmat training, and use the equipment to control and contain any contamination over water.
“Today we simulated a barge leak and try to set up some cascading boom to contained the oil that way we could position our skimmer so we could recover most of the spilled product,” said Vaigneur.
The skimmer, a boat equipped with an oil recovery system, helps filter oil contamination in the water and is one of many assets in the air station’s arsenal for protecting the waterways. The boom is towed behind the boats and acts as a large net, trapping the oil to be collected by a skimmer boat.
“This type of training is important because you get to be hands on instead of just sitting in a classroom hearing about but not experiencing it,” said Cpl. Ismael Tapia, a Marine with Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting. “Like this you get to see where everything and how it is actually operated which makes for effective training.”
Due to their expertise in protecting the environment and responding to critical situations, a majority of the course was occupied by Marines with the air station’s ARFF section. Other units from the air station also had an opportunity to take something away from the exercise.
“I was impressed with the amount of teamwork and coordination it takes to respond in case of a spill,” said Sgt. Sandino McKnight, a motor transport mechanic with MCAS Beaufort. “This was definitely a good opportunity to go outside of your job field and learn something important especially me being a motor transport mechanic,” said McKnight. “I never thought I would be doing something like this and it’s a great experience overall.”