Photo Information

Corporal Gregory Hollins, rescueman, Aircraft, Rescue and Firefighting watches closely as a CH-53 Super Stallion lands aboard forward armed refueling point Al Qaim, Iraq, March 27. Hollins is one of four crash crewmen who are responsible for all aircraft and structural fire defense in Al Qaim.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Marines tackle blazing challenges in Al Qaim

31 Mar 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Crash Fire Rescue, sections are generally comprised of more than 20 Marines made up of drivers, crash crewmen, rescue men and a section leader. In Al Qaim there is a detachment of four Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 acting as the structural and aircraft fire response team for the entire forward arming refueling point.

The four Marines are on a two-minute response time for any aircraft emergency. When aircraft are not landing aboard Al Qaim the CFR Marines have time to practice their response time as well as review the different responsibilities they have here and back in the states.

“We have drills we do to make sure we keep our skills sharp,” said Sgt. Robert Tidquist, section leader, MWSS-271 CFR. “When we are not drilling we give classes about the different aspects of our jobs both here and stateside including, emergency medical training, structural and aircraft firefighting.”

The training is important to the Marines. All crash crewmen must keep their knowledge and skills in top form because they never know when the next emergency is or what it will be.

“We are on call 24-hours a day, because there isn’t as much aircraft traffic as there would be at a bigger installation the chances of needing to respond to an emergency are minimized,” said the Brighton, Colo., native. “Our typical day begins with checking all of our vehicles to make sure they are in good working order and in position when aircraft come in or leave. We do everything we can to be where we can best respond to any situation”

Every time an aircraft lands or takes-off the team positions itself to where it can see the entire airfield, this is called “sitting hotspot”. If the tower calls in an emergency or if the team members sitting hotspot notice something go wrong they quickly dawn their gear and prepare for the worst.

“When an emergency is declared we demonstrate why we practice so much, Tidquist said. “We quickly put all of our gear on and move our vehicles in position to best diffuse the situation.”

In an emergency, their first responsibility is to get the pilots, crew and any passengers out quickly and safely. Second, the aircraft and the surrounding area have to be properly extinguished and declared safe before anyone can go into the area and investigate the incident.

“We have a big responsibility out here,” Tidquist said. “At the forward air refueling point, providing fuel is the priority, but I think we have an important mission as well. The safety of the aircraft and the personnel is a big deal. In the Marine Corps safety is number one and that is our job.”

The Aircraft, Rescue and Firefighting division here is getting a lot of experience being the only crash crew Marines around. Every member of the team is accepting more responsibility than they have ever had in the job field.

I am filling a staff noncommissioned officers billet being the section leader.” Tidquist said. “There is a lot more responsibility for each member of the team.”

From top to bottom, the CFR team is learning and experiencing life above what they would be if they were attached to a whole CFR section.

“Normally, since I just reported to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point a few months before we deployed, I would just man the turret on our vehicle,” said Lance Cpl. Ben Schrock, crash crewman, and Kenpton, Penn., native.  “But since we are out here I also have to assist our rescue man when ever he needs it.

“Schrock is taking on a lot of responsibility for a new member of the crash crew team. He is taking on the extra responsibility and doing a good job with it,” Tidquist said.

There are challenges the members of CFR are overcoming everyday being the only emergency response personnel on base.

“We don’t have a lot of resources here.” Tidquist said. “We use what we have and use who we have. We will always be ready for the next emergency.”

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