VMFA-121 trains to fuel airpower in contaminated environments

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Jimenez
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Jimenez

VMFA-121 trains to fuel airpower in contaminated environments

by: Cpl. Carlos Jimenez | .
MCAS Iwakuni | .
published: November 17, 2017

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 trained to keep aircraft in the fight while working inside a simulated-hazardous environment at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 15, 2017.

The Marines conducted hot refuel on F-35B Lightning II aircraft while wearing Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear level four.

“This exercise enables us to refine our standard operating procedures while familiarizing the Marines to operate in gear they aren’t used to,” said U.S. 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.

A hot refuel is a fast-paced fueling method that allows aircraft to take in fuel while powered up, which gets them back to the fight quicker. Executing missions on time and being faster than the enemy is a vital aspect to the Marine Corps, and exercises like these assure 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 U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Michael Jones, the ordnance staff noncommissioned officer in charge with VMFA-121. “Every second that we can save on that is possibly saving someone’s life.”

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ryan Thompson, an ordnance technician with VMFA-121, said despite the extra gear the exercise went as expected. One challenge they faced was the narrowed field of vision that came with working with a gas mask on.

“It was just a little bit harder to see,” said Thompson. “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 in to this whole training event and the added time that it requires to be able to perform this,” said Jones.

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