News: MCAS earns top naval aviation safety award
Story by Christine Cabalo
Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay recently earned the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award by preventing dangers while flying.
The air station was one of two units aboard the base to receive this award, the other being currently-deployed Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463. The Air Station faced daily challenges and put in hard work for special events to earn the award, said Paul Anslow, director of safety, MCAS.
“Our active runway has a major road crossing through it,” Anslow said. “More than 1,000 vehicles cross each day. We are the only military airfield to have a road that crosses the runway.”
To prevent stray pedestrians or vehicles from wandering onto the flightline, MCAS officials constantly monitored the area and educated the community to avoid these runway incursions. In 2010 safety personnel were able to prevent these incidents to the lowest levels they’ve ever recorded.
The unit also initiated the Safety Warrior plan, a program that recognizes one Marine or sailor each quarter for their safety efforts. One of the key units contributing to MCAS’s safety is Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting.
“Whenever the airfield is open, we have a fully manned aircrew,” said Staff Sgt. George Torres, section leader, ARFF. “We’re constantly monitoring hotspots, in the air and on ground, so we can respond in a minute. We’re keeping an eye on aircraft, ready to respond.”
During the year, ARFF along with other units in MCAS, participated in special events requiring extensive safety measures. The firefighters were among several emergency crews on hand for MCB Hawaii presents “The Kaneohe Bay Air Show.”
With an audience of more than 140,000 people and featuring 100 military aircrafts, ARFF and the rest of MCAS constantly made safety their mission. Units practiced safety drills, training before the show in case of any emergency.
“We simulated a large scale emergency,” said Sgt. Eric Koch, ARFF firefighter, MCAS. “We [trained to] respond to putting out the fire, rescuing the pilots or protecting lives and properties.”
The firefighters were also on hand to monitor the pyrotechnics performed in front of audiences during the show. Many from ARFF also supported the safe operations of one of the largest international martime events, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2010. While pilots from several countries worked together in missions, ARFF personnel were all on call to respond. The firefighters doubled their normal crew counts to monitor the flightline.
“The whole crew has done a lot,” Koch said. “We made sure everyone was safe, there was no crashing of trucks and the dispatchers were alert without any of incidents of Marines falling asleep on post.”
Torres and Koch said safety was the main goal, even with demanding hours and the airfield being very active for an entire month. The careful work is part of how MCAS checked for safety constantly.
“All members of MCAS pitched in and did a fantastic job,” Anslow said. “Without their professionalism and can do spirit, we would not have been as successful as we have been. We are a small unit, but we achieve outstanding results though operational recourse management, team work and esprit de corps.”
The Air Station here was the only air station from U.S. Marine Forces, Pacific who were honored for their high safety standards in 2010.