Marines train for worst-case scenarios at Al Asad

27 Nov 2007 | Cpl. Brandon L. Roach

In the United States, firefighters are looked up to as modern-day superheroes filled with pride and selfless dedication to service and people. Interweave that with the Marine Corps honor, courage and commitment and the result is a Crash Fire Rescue Marine.

These Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), held a training exercise at Al Asad, Iraq, Dec. 9 to ensure they are prepared to handle any incident while serving as a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel team during their deployment in the War on Terror.  

"We work hard, play hard and train even harder," said Lance Cpl. Christopher Carson, aircraft rescue and firefighting specialist, TRAP. "Our training helps us overcome the problems that we have, so we can do our job better."

The constant strive for perfection in the Corps is what drove Sgt. Gary Garcia to get his Marines the proper training for what they will be facing while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I flipped an already destroyed 7-Ton Vehicle in the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office's lot to use in our training scenario," said Garcia, aircraft rescue and firefighting specialist, TRAP. "I then took my Marines to the site and prepared it with a simulated casualty, and then I gave the scenario brief. They were responding to an overturned vehicle that was blown up with one casualty of an unknown status."

When everything was in place, Garcia called the Marines in training over the radio and requested support. Using a humvee as a simulated helicopter, the rescue team arrived on scene, instantly grabbing their rescue equipment as their section leader assessed the situation.

"As soon as we go outside the wire on a mission anything can happen," said Garcia, a native of San Angelo, Texas. "We train all the Marines as leaders in case something happens to their senior noncommissioned officer-in-charge."

Once the casualty was identified, they gave proper medical attention and began to cut the vehicle from around the wounded Marine. After a few short minutes, Garcia called over the radio, adding to the stress of the simulation.

"Our bird is taking small-arms fire," Garcia shouted. "We only have five minutes. Then, we have to go."

This instantly made the crew work harder and faster to get the injured Marine from the vehicle and to the landing zone.

"I wanted to give them the hardest scenario that I could possibly come up with. This gives them a chance to train for the worst case instead of just training on the easier stuff," said Garcia. "We always look for the easiest and safest way to get someone out. This time, they had obstacles and a time limit, just like they would on the roads of Iraq."

With the window of time closing on them, the Marines' adrenaline and emotions went into overdrive, which can sometimes bring tunnel vision and over focusing on one specific problem.

"Once that adrenaline gets going and tunnel vision kicks in, you have to stay focused on the situation," said Sgt. Donald Shaw, aircraft rescue and firefighting specialist, TRAP. "We need to make sure that we take it slow, so no one makes a mistake, which could cause an injury or cost a life."

Upon getting the wounded Marine out of the ash-filled vehicle, they then put him on a sled and loaded him on the humvee.

"All personnel and equipment accounted for," stated Shaw, as he checked on his Marines to make sure they were okay.

After the simulation, Garcia gave the team an evaluation of what strengths and problems he saw while overseeing the exercise.
"The drill went very well, as I expected it would," he said. "We just need to slow it down and make sure that communication is still there while the mission is taking place."

Although the training was a success, the Marines saw and felt their individual faults harder than any outsider would have.

"I need to pay attention to everything around me more," said Carson. "Just like the real thing, my adrenaline got the best of me, and I lost track of the big picture. Next time, I will remember that I need to slow down and take notice of everything going on around me."

From the war-torn streets of Iraq to the peaceful flight line operations at a stateside based air station, these Marines continue training and identifying their problems to better themselves and their mission.