In May, Marine military rescue workers stationed in Japan conducted two training operations. A specialized medical team focused on mass-casualty preparation, while the Marine Corps Bases Japan Fire Department (MCBJFD) conducted live-fire training for the first time in nearly 6 years.
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Nightingale team, composed of Marines and sailors from Combat Logistics Battalion 31, conducted mass-casualty drills in Okinawa, Japan, on May 10 in preparation for future operations.
The Nightingale team is a nine-person special-reaction medical team that treats, stabilizes and evacuates casualties from hostile areas for further treatment. The drills ready the team to respond to multiple-casualty incidents, such as bombings or vehicle crashes.
“We’re like an ambulance in a war zone,” says Petty Officer 1st Class Leonardo Carbonel, the mission commander for the exercise.
Separately, the MCBJFD conducted live-fire training at the Gimbaru Training Area in the northern part of Okinawa on May 9, for the first time in almost 6 years.
The Gimbaru Burn Tower, the area’s primary structure, was deemed unsafe for training in 2001 due to the facility’s deteriorating condition. “If we continued to conduct live-fire training in the tower, bad things could have happened,” says John Arakaki, the MCBJFD battalion training chief. For the past 5 years, the firefighters only used the training area for search-and-rescue drills and relied on Kadena Air Base’s burn house for live-fire training, Arakaki says.
Though Kadena was very accommodating, it was not the ideal situation for the MCBJFD. “When we would take our academy recruits or the guys who need to re-qualify to conduct a ‘live fire,’ we would have to coordinate with Kadena’s fire department to set it up,” Arakaki says. “We had to transport fuel and wooden pallets and get our firefighters authorized entrance to Kadena. It was a big logistical problem.”
But the resumption of live-fire training at Gimbaru did not mark a full return to the training area. “We are still not allowed to use the tower,” Arakaki says. “Instead, we put steel containers halfway around the tower to do the live-fire training.”
Each of the nine containers is 40 feet long and roughly 8 feet wide. They are the same kind of containers normally seen on the bed of an 18-wheel semi-tractor trailer. On the walls and ceilings inside the containers is a special lining, or burn panels, that can withstand temperatures up to 2,000 degrees.
Arakaki said the trailers are not permanent, but provide an effective facility until a new tower can be constructed. Plans are in the works to build a new, six-story tower.
The Gimbaru training was a success in that it served two purposes, says Jules R. Meyer, the MCBJFD deputy chief: allowing department officials to evaluate the effectiveness of the trailers in simulating an intense fire, and giving MCB Fire Academy recruits their first opportunity to fight a real fire.
“They were able to get some good training because these containers can hold a lot of heat,” Meyer says.