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  • 14
  • Mar
  • 2016
Aircraft Rescue, Fire Fighting ensures airfield personnel saftey

By Cpl. Mark Watola, Marine Corps Air Station New River

NEW RIVER, N.C. -- Bright yellow trucks rush to the scene of an aircraft that took a hard landing on the flight line during a simulated drill on Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina March 7, 2016.

Marines with Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting responded to the downed aircraft to save the lives of fellow Marines on board.

ARFF Marines are specialized firefighters and rescue personnel who ensure the safety of aircraft personnel on the flight line, and assist in any emergency involving military aircraft.

"This job is important because without [ARFF] crew, we couldn’t man an airfield," said Cpl. Caden Vanbuskirk, a rescueman with ARFF. "Nobody could fly aircraft. If a bird were to go down and we weren’t there, people would die. Lives are at stake."

During the simulated hard landing, the Marines rushed to the downed aircraft. While maintaining a safe distance, with hoses at the ready, other rescuemen cautiously made their way to the MV-22 Osprey. Once inside, they began to assess the situation and take the injured Marines to safety and triage.

"Any time anything crashes or there’s a mishap on the airfield we respond as fast as possible and clean it up as fast as possible so that the airfield can stay open and the mission can continue to be accomplished," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Atkinson, crash fire rescue section leader.

New River is home to many units which specialize in rotor-wing aircraft, like the MV-22 Osprey, AH-IW Super Cobra,CH-53E. ARFF training focuses on rotor-based aircraft emergencies, though they are trained to handle other situations too.

"We train this scenario specifically because it’s happened to us a lot," said Atkinson. "It’s typical for emergencies on helicopters. Typically when you have a hard landing, everyone gets concussions and most people are unconscious."

Crash fire rescue conducts the simulated drill multiple times a week to guarantees their readiness and response to emergencies. Their systematic approach to training allows them to readily handle routine tasks and focus on more difficult decisions or hazards that can occur.

"We do a lot of the same drills over and over again critiquing them more and more severely so that the Marines can get used to very structured behavioral patterns when it comes to emergencies," said Atkinson. "Most people get tunnel vision when they’re faced with crisis so we try and push through that and learn to have intensity without the tension that blocks mental processes."

At the end of the day, for some ARFF Marines, the job is more than just a job. ARFF Marines who put their lives at stake have a driving force in their character that allows them to carry out their duties.

"We’re always going to be there for you," said Vanbuskirk. "Never have a doubt in the back of your mind that we won’t be there."
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