MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, South Carolina -- Marines with the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting conducted a controlled burn training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, Feb. 17.
The training involved extin¬guishing fuel fires on a model jet to give ARFF Marines the experience of fighting a real fire. The Marines battling the blaze use hoses to push the fire away from the model jet’s cockpit in order to simulate procedure for rescuing a pilot in a real life scenario.
“We execute training fires as often as possible to train for possible fuel fires and other emergencies on the flight line,” said Sgt. Damien Sanders, a crew chief with ARFF. “Every crew member has to know their job and be prepared to perform in an emergency.”
Training with live fires not only makes the Marines train for a real life scenario, but also ensures that they understand the severity and importance of their specialty to the air station. The unit acts as one of the first response teams on the scene to protect the aircraft crew and its passengers in fire or hazardous material emergencies.
“Our mission is to protect property and flight operations by employing advanced fire suppression rescue operations,” said Sgt. Dustin Clayton, a hand line operator with ARFF. “Without the immediate support of ARFF, aircraft aboard the air station could end up in potentially dangerous situations.”
The Marines with ARFF are trained respond to an emergency within three minutes of notification. Their quick response time is critical to any emergency situation aboard the air station. The jet fuel is utilized in training to give the Marines the opportunity to work in a more realistic setting.
“The [MOS] school uses propane that you can just turn on and off,” said Clayton. “Here, there is no on/off switch, so you have to put the fire out yourself just like in real life.”
All ARFF Marines must complete a three-month long military occupational specialty school at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, which teaches basic firefighting skills and hazardous material awareness training.
Training encompassed in an ARFF Marine’s schedule includes water survival training, burn pit exercises and response training. All of which provide them with potentially life-saving skills.
“The most important training skill we learn is how to effectively extinguish an aircraft fire,” said Sanders.
“We learn proper technique on how to extinguish it and to build and maintain stamina because we’re in the gear for hours at a time.”
Station fire fighters wear heat resistant silver suits to keep themselves safe from the blaze. The gear is rated to withstand up to 2,100 degrees of heat. Along with the reflective suit, the firefighters also use a separate breathing apparatus attached to a canister that provides them fresh oxygen as they navigate through the many hazardous chemicals generated from burning fuels and materials.
“The airfield could not operate without us,” said Clayton. “Our job is to support the Air Station and to save lives and property from damage.”
When the training came to a close the pit is cooled down and the Marines loaded onto their trucks. The training was a success not only for the firefighting Marines but for those who lives depend on the unique skill set of the ARFF Marines.