MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Okinawa, Japan -- MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Okinawa, Japan – The flames scorched the ground around the charred skin of the aircraft as plumes of smoke twisted skyward. Four teams of hose-bearing Marines advanced toward the inferno, their clothing heats up as they drew closer. Once the hoses pulsed to life, water began to overwhelm flame and extinguish the wreckage.
Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, participated in a crash fire rescue scenario as part of their pre-deployment training at the base fire station, June 16 through 20.
The Marines taking part in the course do not hold billets in crash fire rescue but are required to know how to aid in any accidental situation because of their various roles within the unit.
“We work on and around these aircraft, so we should strive to be prepared for anything that could happen to them even if it means going outside our job descriptions,” said Lance Cpl. Jordan Lord , a flight equipment survival safety specialist with VMM-262 (REIN), 31st MEU.
Fire Rescue course instructors used the Mobile Aircraft Firefighting Training Device (MAFT-D) - a steel shell resembling the exterior of an AV-8B Harrier jet - to create a realistic exercise for the students. The apparatus is set aflame through controlled means, using propane hoses and electric starters to regulate the amount of fire in each separate section of the frame. Regardless of the airframe, the techniques taught with the MAFT-D are the same for any aircraft VMM-262 (REIN) operates with.
The course begins with classroom instruction on a range of crash rescue knowledge, from how an engine fire spreads across the aircraft to proper hose spraying techniques. The Marines then put the classroom knowledge to practical use with the MAFT-D.
Four teams, consisting of five or six Marines, manned hoses flanking the MAFT-D while coordinating sweeping water streams across the hull. The cockpit is the starting point to ensure the pilots’ safety before working to the back of the aircraft. The Marines focus on specific high-risk points of the aircraft such as the fuel tanks and engines.
“It isn’t as simple as pointing a hose at the fire and spraying it. There are spread patterns you have to watch out for and sections of the aircraft that take priority,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Andre Taylor, a Fire Rescue course instructor. “While there is a lot of procedure and technique, we ultimately show them how to properly put wet stuff on hot stuff.”
Although US Navy ships, such as the USS Bonhomme Richard, are staffed with fire rescue personnel, having additional trained Marines and sailors embark aboard the vessel increases the likelihood of rescue success, according to Taylor.
“If at any point (the rescue personnel) need more people to help out, they can pull us and integrate us onto the hoses to free them up for other procedures,” said Lord.
VMM-262 (REIN) is the aviation combat element for the 31st MEU that provides assault support for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force mission.
The 31st MEU is the force of choice for the Asia-Pacific region and is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.