MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Taking deep breaths, the Marines step out from the safety of their truck looking at the monster before them. An immense heat fills the air warding off anyone who comes close. Trickles of sweat start to form on the Marines’ foreheads. With a sly smile, they put on their gear, grab their weapon and run toward the raging beast with speed and intensity.
This is just one example of a day in the life of a firefighter from Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. These Marines train with fire everyday to be ready for any situation aboard the Air Station.
On April 6 Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting’s made its first trip to the newly repaired burn pit where Marines faced several 200-gallon gas fires that tested their knowledge and endurance.
“This is the first time since last summer we have been to the burn pit,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Nix, training chief, Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting. “The pit is one of the most important training tools we have to teach the Marines how to safely put out fires.”
The burn pit uses fuel, fire and an old aircraft to simulate an accident for the Marines to train with.
“Our first priority when training is the airfield,” Nix said. “During our training we always have one vehicle at midfield while the rest of our crew is training at the burn pit. When we train our Marines at the burn pit, we are helping to make them more proficient at their jobs. We want to ensure they have the skills to manipulate the fires, see different kinds of fire and how to handle them that way we save lives and reduce the amount of damage to the aircraft and the airfield.”
The burn pit provides Aircraft Rescue and Fighting with a chance to cross-train with civilian firefighters and work on other important aspects of firefighting.
“During the training fires, civilians from the Air Station Fire Department work with the Marines to put out the blazes,” Nix said. “The training also helps the Marines become proficient in using the pumper truck. The Marines need to know how to read the gages and dials that determine water pressure going into the hoses. The Marine on top of the truck mans a water canon which shoots large amounts of water into a fire to help control it.”
When Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines go out to battle a blaze, whether in training or in real life, they work together as a team to accomplish the mission and try to save the aircraft.
Each Marine has a task to do when battling a blaze, according to Nix. One Marine carries the hose into the fire, the point man controls the nozzle and the direction of the water and the last Marine stands by to pull the hose out of the fire on a moments notice. Each Marine is essential to the safety of the other.
“I love doing this kind of training,” said Lance Cpl. Josh Edwards, aircraft firefighting specialist, Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting. “It’s in my blood. My father was a firefighter for 32 years before he retired. This job is fun. When people see a fire they run away from it, but we get to run into it. It’s a rush that we all experience, so you could say we are adrenaline junkies who love it hot.”