Coast Guard Trains Marines on Okinawa

Dozens train to react to hazardous spills, environmental threats
By Lance Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Dozens of service members and civilian employees from units all over Okinawa recently completed the Waste Operators and Emergency Response Course on Camp Foster.

Members from the Coast Guard’s National Strike Force, Pacific Strike Team, travel to Marine Corps bases in Japan once a year to train volunteers as first responders during emergencies – particularly emergencies involving chemical hazards.

The course addresses the basics of safety and health issues encountered in hazardous waste spills and the possible effects on the environment. Other elements of the course include the wear and use of personal protective equipment, laws and regulations relating to hazardous materials management, handling and decontamination.

The team, which specializes in reducing the effects of chemical and oil spills and natural disasters, taught two courses March 17-21 and 24-28 and two one-day refresher courses March 31 and April 1 for volunteers who had taken the course before.

The team trains military and civilian personnel to make Marine Corps Bases Japan more self-sufficient in dealing with chemical emergencies, said Coast Guard Ensign Chris M. Kimrey, training officer for the course. Graduates of the course can be called upon to respond if an incident ever occurs here.

The first trained personnel to arrive at the scene of an incident are firefighters, but it is important to have trained volunteers to augment the first responders, Kimrey said.

In the final two days of training, students suited up in fully-encapsulated protective suits. The suits protect wearers from harmful elements while providing an oxygen supply.

The students spent many hours learning how to function in the suits. Instructors had them throw footballs and Frisbees to one another to help them become more comfortable in the suits.

Students put their knowledge and training to the test during a final exercise that tested their ability to respond to an emergency situation and deal with a hazardous materials incident.

Kimrey said the training helped establish a supplemental force capable of assisting emergency response agencies on Okinawa with hazardous management scenarios.

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