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NAS Oceana, Local First Responders Conduct Training

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First responders from Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana and the cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake participated in a drill involving a simulated jet crash in Virginia Beach, Dec. 15.

"Aircraft offer unique challenges that our first responders don't see every day, so we have the experts from Oceana here critique our response," said Virginia Beach Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Riley. "We have to be prepared for the worse case scenarios."

The drill serves to develop and exercise coordination efforts between first responders of the two cities and the Navy. In the drill scenario, there was a mid-air collision between two F/A-18 aircraft during the formation's return to Oceana.

The wingman returned to base successfully, but the lead aircraft impacted the ground near the intersection of Old Pungo Ferry Road and the Intercoastal Waterway in Virginia Beach. The lead aircrew safely ejected and landed inside Chesapeake's jurisdiction.

NAS Oceana personnel practice at least once a year to be prepared to respond to an aircraft crash, but this is the first time that Oceana has practiced with both the cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake within the same exercise.

The Virginia Beach Fire Department responded to the Navy's fire trainer that was placed in a parking lot in Virginia Beach. NAS Oceana's training team had previously trained the Virginia Beach Fire Department chiefs on the differences between fighting a fire on a military jet compared to that of a small private aircraft or even a commercial jet, according to Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Fire and Emergency Services District Fire Chief Ken Snyder. The Navy's Fire and Emergency Services responded once it was clear the incident involved a military jet.

"We're using the resources from the military," said Riley. "They have world-class training opportunities here, and we are just taking full advantage of the opportunities and the partnership with the United States Navy."

Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad also responded since, as part of the scenario, two fishermen were wounded and burned from debris of the jet crash. Sentara Norfolk General Hospital's Nightingale air ambulance service also arrived to take the victims to the hospital.

The Chesapeake Fire Department responded to reports of a man and a parachute landing in the city. To make the training as realistic as possible, a practice ejection seat was actually placed at the scene, and the responders were trained on how to approach an ejection seat which may still have live ordnance.

"This is just such a great example of that cooperation and how far we've come between the cities and the base," said NAS Oceana Commanding Officer Capt. Jim Webb.

Webb said he expects the base will continue to practice with the cities on many occasions in the future, including the Navy's yearly spring exercise, Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield in March 2012.

Article by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Antonio P. Turretto Ramos