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  • Dec
  • 2015
MWSS-171 Marines receive HAZWOPER training

By Lance Cpl. Aaron Henson, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- The Marines attended a 40-hour course at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, in the month of Dec. 2015, that taught them how to respond in the case of an emergency and how to operate safely around hazardous materials, waste, substances and fuels.

“We discussed hazardous waste storage, compatibility, handling, emergency response, the science behind hazardous materials and the toxic effects,” said Mitchell Ferrell, comprehensive environmental training and education program coordinator from Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler. “It’s a comprehensive course and one of the most highly sought courses that you can take in the Marine Corps or as a civilian.”

The course covered topics such as the hazards associated with working around chemicals, how to locate information on different chemicals, and the four aspects of planning and organizing a hazardous waste site, which are organizational structure, work plan, safety meetings and inspections.

“This is making the 23 students we have first-responder qualified,” said Sgt. Kayla Stitt, environmental compliance coordinator with MWSS-171. “The more people we have trained in this manner, the more people we could possibly save. They can go out and de-escalate whatever situation may occur.”

The Marines conducted classes indoors for three days before exercising practical application for the remainder of the course. 

“During this simulation the Marines went in the back of the warehouse to take samples, go through the decontamination line and take off their personal protective equipment so they can go about their duties,” said Stitt.

While it is mandatory for workers that work with hazardous materials in the U.S. to undergo HAZWOPER training, it is not a requirement for all Marines.

“This course affords Marines a secondary military occupational specialty which is 8056,” said Ferrell. “This is an environmental MOS and every unit must have at least two qualified Marines.”

When units go on deployments they won’t have civilians like Ferrell to handle hazardous situations and will need to utilize Marines who have completed HAZWOPER training.

“This training benefits the unit because you never know when a chemical spill will occur on or off base,” said Sgt. Valentin Vivaldo, food service specialist with MWSS-171. “They can send us to identify the chemical and assist in the clean-up.”

Accurate training is instilled to ensure the Marines recognize and understand the importance of practice and its role in avoiding potential hazards.

“This training is important because if you’re responding to something of a hazardous nature, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting yourself into,” said Stitt. “You have to be able to go and identify the chemical and plan your course of action.”

Marines who have trained in HAZWOPER may translate their official certification into the civilian sector, giving this training more significance inside and outside the Corps.

“HAZWOPER is a recognized certification in both the private industry and the Department of Defense,” said Ferrell. “If you’re going into environmental safety or occupational health, this is absolutely a certification that you want to have.”

Ferrell said officials plan to conduct the next HAZWOPER training before summer.

For more information, contact the Station Environmental Office at 253-4854.