News: Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 extends aviation reach
Story by Lance Cpl. Laura Gauna
YUMA, Ariz. -- Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 visited Yuma for predeployment training operations by setting up Forward Arming Refueling Points in support of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.
A FARP provides air support 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure the aircraft flying into their sites are fueled and ready to return to the fight. The expeditious sites can set up anywhere near the frontlines where pilots need to refuel.
“A FARP is a vital tool for any commander that’s involved in aviation,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randy Banks, MWSS-373 fuels officer in charge and native of Yazoo City, Miss. “It has allowed us to push forward as close to the battle area as possible, hence the term forward, and what that does is allow aircraft to support troops on the ground to get to their objective faster and decrease their turnaround time. So they come back to us get their fuel and punch right back out, which allows more time on target and speeds up their mission.”
During their 3 week exercise, Marines brush up on the skills required to set up a site. They refuel several different aircraft including UH-1N Hueys, UH-1Y Hueys, CH-53D Sea Stallions, CH-46 Sea Knights, AV-8B Harriers and MV-22 Ospreys.
“It takes a high level of motivation to do this all day,” said Sgt. Salinas Manuel, MWSS-373 FARP OIC and 28-year-old native of Edinburg, Texas. “You have to be motivated to get out here and do what we do. We come out here prepared for the mission. I really couldn’t have a better crew for this type of operation.”
To accomplish their mission, a FARP needs Marines from a variety of military occupational specialties, especially since the site has to not only sustain itself, but also the aircraft it supports.
The specialties include refueling Marines, bulk fuel specialists, communications, corpsmen, imperial Expeditionary Force Marines, Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines and Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Teams.
“These guys are all professionals and they know what they are doing,” said Manuel. “Everyone brings their own leadership to the team. Our leadership has given us their full confidence and respect.”
They are capable of setting up a FARP in 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on the mission, the amount of fuel pumped into the aircraft varies. Thus far, Marines are encountering approximately 15 or more aircraft a day and pumping about 5,000 gallons of jet propellant fuel during each mission.
For their time in Yuma, they are carrying about 18,000 gallons of fuel in their four tanks. Toward the end of the month, they will be conducting their largest refueling operation yet.
“It is a dangerous job,” said 28-year-old Banks. “Refueling in itself is dangerous because of how volatile fuel is and nighttime operations are even more dangerous. Anything dealing with fuel is bad, it’s a hazardous material. We have to be extremely careful with what we do out here.”
After completing their mission here in Yuma, the team will be heading to Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms for Enhanced Mojave Viper.