News: Aviation's lifeblood ... Support units fuel 1st Air Cavalry Brigade's mission
Story by Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins
By Spc. Nathan Hoskins
1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – With as much weaponry that an Apache can hold, as much weight that a Chinook can lift and with as much agility that a Black Hawk can maneuver, none of those things matter without the fuel to power them.
The 1st Air Cavalry "Warrior" Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, isn't going anywhere without the Soldiers maintaining and pumping the fuel which these aircraft consume.
Full-service, 24/7 gas station
Soldiers from Company A "Hammers," 615th Aviation Support Battalion, are working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the forward arming and refueling point [FARP] so that the Warriors can continue to provide air support to the troops on the ground, said Sgt. Mirasol Smith, an aircraft refueling supervisor for Co. A.
The FARP is like a gas station that is open all hours for helos (helicopters) that set down but keep their engines running so they can head back to their missions with minimal delay.
With the surge of troops, it is no wonder that the operational tempo has picked up significantly. And it's also no wonder that Co. A has smashed previous records of amounts of fuel pumped by the unit prior, said Smith who hails from Zellwood, Fla.
With about two months to go on their normal deployment cycle, they have already surpassed the three million gallon mark of fuel pumped, she said.
Waupaca, Wis., native Pfc. Jeffrey Wanty, a petroleum supply specialist for the Hammers, said he feels they have accomplished a lot compared to the amount of time they've been in Iraq.
"There's a big sense of pride to know that we've done so many aircraft and pumped out so many gallons and handled it all with minimal issues," he said.
Wanty keeps track of the numbers on a large dry-erase board that would confuse the average onlooker.
"My job consists of ... maintaining and updating the fuel we have on hand and the fuel that we have issued, on the board as well as the computer," said Wanty.
Not only are the Hammers pumping a phenomenal amount of fuel, but they are making sure it is the cleanest fuel as well, said Wanty.
The fuel that Co. A is pumping is not the average quality of gas at the local thrifty mart; its quality has to be flawless so the helos can maintain their mission schedule with no disruptions, said Wanty.
"The fuel has to be clear as water. You've got to be able to set a bottle of (our fuel) up next to a bottle of water and not be able to tell the difference," said Wanty.
Fuelers on the flight line
Along with the Hammers pumping fuel to the helos at the FARP, Soldiers of Company E, 2nd "Lobo" Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, are moving millions of gallons of fuel along the flight line.
When birds come in after a day of flying, they're parked and left to the maintenance teams to fine tune them. While they are sitting along the flight line, Co. E, comes in and refuels them so that they are ready to go for the next mission, said Staff Sgt. Maurice Lynn, the section chief for the distribution platoon in Co. E.
"Recently, we just hit the two million (gallon) mark," said the Philadelphia native. "Normally, you don't see that at all; especially just dealing with cold fuel and the operation that we run."
Lynn and his team of Soldiers take care of what is called cold fuel, this is fuel pumped into aircraft that don't have their engines running, he said.
Motivated by an abundance of the spirit of competition, Co. E decided that the prior unit's mark was something they needed to beat, said Lynn.
The prior unit barely broke the two million gallon mark before they left Iraq, Lynn's Soldiers have already topped that and are looking for their next cool million, he said.
"For some (troopers), they're actually looking forward to the next million gallons we're going to do," he said.
The fuelers of Co. E are constantly on the move. In the short distance up and down the airfield and to the pumps, they have already racked up over 19,542 miles, said Lynn.
That's more than half the total number of miles their entire battalion's vehicles have traveled since being deployed, he said.
The amount of fuel they have delivered to the helicopters on the flight line would overflow 889 fuel trucks, said Lynn.
Overall, Lynn feels a sense of satisfaction in the support that his platoon provides.
"Our company is blessed with a mission like this. I know what it's like to be involved in the mission as far as support," he said.
"Anytime we go out there and fill up an aircraft, we're either saving someone's life or (fulfilling) someone's wish – meaning they're going back (home) on (mid-tour leave)," said Lynn.
The fuelers of 1st ACB are working non-stop to keep the helos in the air supporting the war on terror and the betterment of Iraq. The more than five million gallons of fuel pumped in less than a year are a testament to their dedication to the mission.