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Airfield rescue firefighters rescue a Marine with Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, who is trapped under debris at a simulated plane crash site during an aviation mishap drill aboard Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, July 14, 2009. The purpose of the drill was to ensure that everyone involved with responding to a plane crash on base worked together efficiently. (U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Cpl. M. M. Bravo)

Photo by Cpl. M. M. Bravo

Marines, civilians train for plane crashes in western Iraq

20 Jul 2009 | Cpl. M. M. Bravo

When a plane crashes on a military installation, it takes teamwork between military and civilian agencies to respond to the crash, secure the scene, put out fires and rescue everyone on board.   

To ensure that all the different agencies involved in responding to plane crashes would be effective if faced with a real-life scenario, Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 conducted an aviation mishap drill July 14 that simulated the crash site of a C-130 Hercules carrying six crew members aboard Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq.  The drill was the second they  have done since they arrived in country in April 2009.

 “A typical squadron has [military police, firefighters and explosive ordnance disposal]; everything you need to respond [to a crash],” said Capt. Matthew D. Bain, the MWSS-271 Aviation Ground Support Detachment commander.  “Out here, we don’t have that.  Responsibilities are shared.”

Some of the agencies the responsibilities are shared with are civilian airfield rescue firefighters, base firefighters, Aviation Combat Element medical personnel and the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward)’s Provost Marshall’s Office.

The drill began with a notification call that there had been a plane crash.  The responding agencies headed to the site as quickly as possible.  Once on site, the firefighters surrounded the plane, shooting out bursts of water and foam, as if the simulated wreckage was engulfed in flames.

PMO blocked off the site to keep bystanders at a safe distance, which enabled medical personnel to immediately begin rescuing the crew members from the wreckage and providing them with medical care.  After all the casualties were evacuated from the scene, EOD commenced a sweep of the site to ensure there were no explosives present.

Col. Mark M. Mancini, the air boss for Camp Al Taqaddum, said communication between the different agencies is the key to a successful response.

“Whatever we do in the Marine Corps, if you don’t have communication, you don’t have unity,” he said.  “The whole idea is to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.”

Bain said there were a lot of improvements in the drill since the first one they conducted.

“To me the most important thing is from the time the call goes in, to when they get out here.  Once they get out here, these guys are professionals.  They know their jobs.

“Overall, everyone worked better together; they were more efficient,” he continued.  “It was much more effective this time and there was no hesitation to respond.”

After the drill was over, everyone went back to their normal duties feeling confident that they would be ready to efficiently operate as one team if faced with a similar situation in the future.

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