MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, NORTH CAROLINA --
It’s a cool, cloudy April day and, a blaze is visible in the distance, on the far side of the Cherry Point runway complex. An aircraft is burning. As you near the blaze, you realize that it’s not an aircraft at all, but an aircraft-shaped device built to simulate a jet in serious trouble. It’s a controlled fire — as much as a raging hot monster who is hungry for your smallest mistake can be called “controlled.” Two groups of men in silver, flame-retardant suits move in sync, perfecting rehearsed patterns to subdue the fire. Water blasts out of their hoses with the power of an ocean forced through a nozzle only inches in diameter, slowly drowning the flames that engulf the mock aircraft.
Not just an ordinary day for Cherry Point’s Aircraft Rescue Firefighters, who partnered with the Wilmington Fire Department to enhance interagency proficiency to prepare for real-life fire emergencies here, April 30.
“It is important to incorporate outside agencies into our routine training,” said Cpl. Brady Heard, an aircraft rescue firefighter with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. “It is important to understand how other departments work and to network with them in case we ever need to work with them in a mutual aid response.”
During the training, five firefighters from the Wilmington Fire Department and 22 Marine aircraft rescue firefighters battled flames outside and inside the Mobile Aircraft Firefighting Training Device. The MAFTD is an aircraft-shaped device firefighters use to practice extinguishing various types of fires.
Marine and civilian firefighters use teamwork while conducting firefighting exercises to maintain a constant stream of communication and accomplish their mission. According to Heard, the hazardous fires in the practice scenarios allow the Marines to maintain a constant state of readiness. It prepares them for real life situations they may face. Training with the MAFTD keeps the firefighters on their toes to better support the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
“Firefighting requires an extreme amount of focus and technique,” said Heard. “When responding to emergencies, it is critical that we know where to be, and to respond quickly and accurately to the situation. The constant training we conduct allows these responses to become muscle memory.”