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Station ARFF first in Corps to receive new thermal gear

By Lance Cpl. Natasha S. Green | | January 22, 2004

     Most people can only dream about the ability to have perfect vision in a completely dark room or being able to see illuminated handprints and footprints.

But now, due to many technological advances, those dreams have just come true for the Marines of the station's Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting unit. 

Eight of the Fire Warriors, which are micro-thermal imaging devices valued at over $12,000 each, were recently purchased by the station from a company called Morning Pride.

The Yuma ARFF Marines are now the first in the Marine Corps to have the device and, in fact, among the first in the entire Department of Defense to get the gear.

"This station was first because they have a very innovative department here," said David Wiles, director of thermal imaging. "The Marines here are doing a great job; this can make their jobs less dangerous."

Wiles, one of the company's representatives, gave an introduction class Jan. 13 to the ARFF Marines.

"This camera can actually see heat," said Wiles. "The colder an object is, the blacker it will show in the camera; the warmer objects show whiter in the camera."

Since nearly everything gives off heat at a different temperature, everything shows up a different shade of grey in the camera.

"If you walk into a room so full of smoke that you are not able to see your hand in front of you, let alone a body on the other side of the room, this device will literally light the entire room up for you," said Wiles. "Not only is it important to be able to see that body, but more importantly, you should see every object blocking your way to that body."

Wiles, a retired Marine chief warrant officer-3 of 21 years, discussed the benefits that the device could have to the Marine Corps.

"In the past, if a pilot ejected out of an aircraft, (search and rescue) Marines would have to search for the missing pilot on foot," said Wiles. "With this device, the search can be conducted from an aircraft."

There are also many other advantages of using the gear, including the fact that it is the smallest, lightest of its type available on the market and its ability to see "hot spots" in a burning building or aircraft.

A larger area can be searched in a shorter amount of time, which can be potentially lifesaving. The purpose of the device is to make Marines' jobs less harmful. 

"This is a really great idea," said Lance Cpl. Anthony Potente, aircraft fire fighting and rescue specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. "I think it is going to make our job a lot easier and make us more effective."

According to Chief Warrant Officer-3 Roger Bond, officer in charge of ARFF, the devices are going to drastically cut down on victim search time.

"If there is a downed pilot or if we are tracking an illegal immigrant on the range, our search time is much faster," said Bond. "Before, we had to get Marines out there searching on foot. This is going to cut our search time in half."

Bond plans to have the Marines begin using the cameras immediately.

"We intend to put them on the trucks within the next few weeks," said Bond. "We have already incorporated them into our monthly training."

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