ARFF conducts burn training
By Lance Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres, Marine Corps Base Hawaii
KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii --
Marines with Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting practiced extinguishing a burning aircraft on Feb. 9, 2016, on the West field aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Marine Corps Air Station’s ARFF Marines are on constant alert and ready to mobilize within minutes when an emergency strikes.
“The mission of ARFF is to protect property and save lives,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian Maness, the officer in charge for ARFF. “The main thing we do is train for the worst, train for aircraft crashes and train for everything that could go wrong when people are injured. We are constantly prepared for emergencies for all aircraft across every branch of the military.”
Maness, a Havelock, N.C., native, says the training benefits the Marines when there is a real-life situation.
“For instance, the last V-22 fire we had Marines fighting the fire for 10 to 15 minutes,” said Maness. “They were breathing in nothing but compressed air for that whole duration. It was proven that during that crash, our guys can last.”
Maness said the training prepared the Marines to properly conduct hand line operations and extinguish multiple fires inside an aircraft. They wore full firefighting gear helping to boost their endurance.
“We train every day and if we don’t, then there’s going to be a situation that we will not be prepared for,” Sgt. Alex Blackwell, an ARFF section leader said. “The training done today and the training we do overall helps prepare our Marines.”
Blackwell, an Eaton Rapids, Mich., native said that one of the challenges that they face is the uncertainty of what to expect because no emergency is the same.
“Everything is different and not knowing what you’re up against is definitely a big challenge,” said Blackwell. “You are going to be going up against a fire for up to 20 minutes then you have to switch out because your oxygen tank is running low; then attack the fire again.”
Blackwell said their course is very physically demanding, pulling other Marines and other people out of an aircraft, running back and forth trying to fight a fire and doing it wearing a firefighting suit.”
“I love my job,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Cole, an ARFF hand lineman. “It’s a lot different than the rest of the Marine Corps. It’s a crazy adrenaline rush.”
Cole said that the most exciting part of his job is not knowing what’s going to happen when you come into work.
“You could be playing video games one second and the next second the crash phone is going off,” Cole said. “So now you have to quickly get dressed and go off to see whatever happened.”
Cole said it’s nice to share the experience with people he calls family.
“ARFF is like a family to me,” said Cole. “A lot of these guys I just met but now that I do know them, I feel very close with them in a way I don’t feel anywhere else. I think it’s amazing that I get this opportunity to not only be a Marine, but also be a fire fighter in the Marine Corps. I’m very proud of my job and I feel ARFF is something very few people can get to be. I am very proud to be one of those people.”