Marines train to fuel aircraft in contaminated environments
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan, Nov. 20, 2017 — Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 trained here to keep aircraft in the fight while operating in a hazardous environment, Nov. 15.
Wearing protective gear, the Marines refueled F-35B Lightning II aircraft while their engines were running -- a process known as “hot refueling.” During the scenario, the Marines were at the highest readiness level -- Mission Oriented Protective Posture 4 -- which requires personnel to wear a mask, suit, boots and gloves.
“This exercise enables us to refine our standard operating procedures while familiarizing the Marines to operate in gear they aren’t used to,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Martin Aldrete, a maintenance controller with VMFA-121. “It’s important to practice in MOPP gear because the Marines don’t get many opportunities to wear this on a daily basis. So in the instance where they do have to wear MOPP gear in a real-life scenario, it’s not going to be a shock or surprise to them of how they are going to operate.”
It’s essential for operational readiness to train for hazardous scenarios where lethal agents such as chemical, biological or radiological weapons can hamper mission success.
Back to the Fight
A hot refuel is a fast-paced fueling method that puts aircraft back in the fight as quickly as possible. Executing missions on time and being faster than the enemy is vital to the Marine Corps, and exercises like these ensure that Marines can keep working quickly no matter what environment they’re forced to work in.
“It’s important to be proficient with this because on the battlefield there’s not much time to put aircraft in the air,” said Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Michael Jones, the ordnance staff noncommissioned officer in charge of VMFA-121. “Every second that we can save on that is possibly saving someone’s life.”
Marine Corps Cpl. Ryan Thompson, an ordnance technician with VMFA-121, said that despite the extra gear, the exercise went as expected. He said the narrowed field of vision that comes with wearing with a protective mask was a minor obstacle.
“It was just a little bit harder to see,” Thompson said. “But that’s about it.”
Overall, the exercise was completed successfully and the Marines gained experience and knowledge from working a familiar job in an unfamiliar fashion.
“What I hope the Marines can take away from this training evolution is a better understanding for MOPP gear and the process that goes into this whole training event and the added time that it requires to be able to perform this,” Jones said.