Marine Corps Bases Japan firefighters ride waves, enhance rescue capabilities
Lance Cpl. Richard Blumenstein

Masashi Miyagi, a Marine Corps Bases Japan firefighter pulls a simulated victim to his jet ski while practicing rescues April 25 during rescue water craft training at Kin Blue. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Richard Blumenstein).


KIN BLUE, Okinawa (May 2, 200 -- In the past, when military personnel or civilians have fallen victim to the strong currents and waves of the Okinawa surf, Marine Corps Bases Japan firefighters called to the scene were forced to stand idly by and wait for local rescue groups to step in.

Thanks to the addition of water rescue craft to the MCBJ fire department's inventory, that may no longer be the case.

To improve their ability to respond to water rescue situations, more than 40 base firefighters took part in the department's first rescue water craft training at Kin Blue April 21-26 using two brand-new jet skis.

Many emergency service groups use jet skis in water rescues because of the craft's ability to easily navigate a surf zone, according to Scott Minakami, the assistant chief of operations for the MCBJ Fire Department.

"This is the craft of choice by a lot of surf rescue groups," Minakami said. "It's versatile, easy to move, doesn't require as much maintenance as a boat and gives us a lot of flexibility in the types of rescues we can carry out."

The fire department purchased the rescue crafts in September at $12,000 each and has recently placed an order for two more, according to Minakami.

"Having these rescue water craft gives us a feeling we can actually assist someone rather than feeling helpless on the land," Minakami said.

The fire department contracted water safety instructors from the K38 Water Safety Corporation to conduct the rescue training. The corporation has hosted previous rescue craft courses for various units from law enforcement agencies, military organizations, fire departments and other professional agencies in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

"We educate them in basic rescue skills and how the craft works, and the basic skills of balance, throttle and helm control," said Simon Rogers, an instructor with K38 Japan, a subdivision of the K38 Water Safety Corporation.

The firefighters spent the week learning how to properly operate the craft and conduct water rescue procedures such as pulling a victim out of the water with one hand while controlling the rescue craft with the other - a "pretty difficult" task, Arakaki said.

Despite the serious atmosphere of the training, it was sometimes hard for the firefighters to conceal their excitement as a few could be seen cracking a smile while racing across the water.

"It's a tool, not a toy, but it's still fun to ride," Arakaki said.

Shawn Alladio (right), a boating safety instructor with K38 Water Safety Corporation, tells firefighters with the Marine Corps Bases Japan Fire Department how to perform handling techniques. (Photo by Cpl. Kevin M. Knallay).
A firefighter with the Marine Corps Bases Japan Fire Department prepares to pull a simulated victim up to his jet ski while practicing rescue techniques during rescue water craft training at Kin Blue April 25. (Photo by Cpl. Kevin M. Knallay).
More than 40 base firefighters took part in the department's first rescue water craft training at Kin Blue April 21-26 using two brand-new jet skis. The firefighters spent the week learning how to properly operate the craft and conduct water rescue procedures. (Photo by Cpl. Kevin M. Knallay).
Masami Goya with the Marine Corps Bases Japan Fire Department holds on to a life board, a platform dragged behind a jet ski to aid a victim, after simulating a swimmer in distress during rescue water craft training at Kin Blue April 25. (Photo by Cpl. Kevin M. Knallay).


http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/Public%20Affairs%20Info/Archive%20News%20Pages/2008/080502-rescues.html