YUMA, ARIZONA -- Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines from three separate West Coast Marine Corps Installations cooled off with a series of friendly yet intense challenges during the 3rd annual ARFF Rodeo Competition at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., May 17.
Marines from both Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and MCAS Miramar, Calif., were beckoned to the desert southwest to contend for the coveted first place trophy and associated bragging rights. For the past two years, the Marines from MCB Camp Pendleton have been the reigning champions, and they were ready to defend that title regardless of the unforgiving Yuma sun.
“I believe there is no better way to build that brotherhood,” said Cpl. Benn Bostic, a firefighter with MCAS Yuma and a native of Los Angeles. “A little competition goes a long way to building relationships. Also, bragging rights are nice.”
The competition required the Marines to complete six events, starting with the gear race, which challenged them to don their fire suits as quickly as possible. Other events included the fireman’s dummy-carry race, a strength and endurance track, a fire hose drill, a barrel sawing event, and finally a bucket brigade race where Marines passed buckets of water to fill an empty tub.
Marine firefighters use the rodeo as an opportunity to test their mettle against different installations, showcasing their abilities during events that require stamina, speed and skill.
“All the events are geared towards real-world firefighting applications,” said Gunnery Sgt. Marcos Martinez, a MCAS Yuma ARFF section leader and a native of Holtville, Calif. “What we do on a daily basis can be seen mirrored at this rodeo.”
Since ARFF is such a small occupational field, less than 700 individuals, the rodeo also proved to be an excellent venue for building relationships between separated peers.
“Once we [firefighters] leave our job-training school or move to a new unit, most of the times we don’t get to see the other ARFF sections,” said Bostic.
In the end, judges tallied up points based on the combined times of events and penalties. Whoever had the highest combined points emerged the winner.
Although all three sections performed remarkably, Camp Pendleton’s Marines managed to clinch the title for the third year running, but neither Yuma nor Miramar’s ARFF Marines dwelled on that.
“We always got next year and the year after,” said Bostic.
Though the Pendleton Marines secured the win, they took no time to revel in it. Their priorities laid elsewhere - they had to return home immediately to join the fight against the wildfires threatening numerous California communities - reminding every Marine present at the rodeo just how serious firefighting can become.