News: Aircraft rescue firefighters battle blazes, sustain skills
Story by Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- The term “firefight” has a whole different meaning to a select group of Marines here.
On Dec. 7, members of the air station’s Aircraft Rescue Firefighting unit engaged in their own firefight against one of the most feared enemies a pilot can face.
It began when a Marine dumped gallons of fuel into a shallow pool of water. Once ignited the blaze of fire engulfed the pit. When given the signal, the Marines began the fight. The two-man teams moved into the pool pushing the fire back while they advanced forward until the fire was completely extinguished.
It was just another hot day for air station ARFF Marines as they spent their morning fighting fires during a pit fuel fires training exercise at the ARFF burn pit aboard MCAS Cherry Point.
Staff Sgt. Justin M. Oakley, a section leader with ARFF said he understands the value of the training the overall benefits of having an Aircraft Rescue Firefighting unit.
“This training helps save the lives of Marines,” said Oakley. “It prepares the Marines of this unit to fight fuel fires and gives them the real-life training needed to succeed.”
“This is the best training we can get,” said Lance Cpl. Mason P. Richard, a hand-line operator with ARFF. “In the school house we put out propane fires. Here, we are put in the direct line of a blaze. Fire has a mind of its own. If you lose your cool for one minute, someone will get hurt.”
Richard and other members of ARFF stressed the importance of the pit fire training and agreed the air station needs ARFF.
“Marines take care of Marines,” said Staff Sgt. Racheal R. Benezette, ARFF training staff non-commissioned officer in charge. “We make pilots feel comfortable. We are already at the hot zones on the airstrip. We save lives. We save aircraft.”
“The pit fuel fires we conduct not only help show us who needs help where, but also help us refine our tactics,” said Oakley. “Pit fires help us keep our Marines at the top of their game.”