News: Forward Arming and Refueling Point Keeps Birds Airborne
By 1st Lt. Morgan Wolff
1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - When you pull up to the gas pump, there are friendly faces waiting to service your vehicle. No need to get out, they'll take care of everything. Tip? No need, they love what they do and wouldn't hear of it. Their goal is to not waste any of your precious time and get you back on the "road" as soon as possible.
This is a rare occurrence in the U.S., but at Baghdad International Airport this happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week due to the hard work of a few Soldiers from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.
Company E, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, assumed responsibility for operations at the BIAP forward arming and refueling point "Crazy Horse" on Oct. 27, 2006. Since then, they have pumped a colossal two million gallons of fuel into coalition aircraft.
Along with hitting the two million gallon mark so quickly, Co. E has serviced over 7,500 coalition aircraft since taking over the mission at BIAP, said Killeen, Texas, native Capt. Michael Martin, commander of Co. E, 1-227th Avn.
To put that into perspective, Company E has serviced more than the equivalent of all the U.S. Army aircraft in very little time, he said.
Twenty eight Soldiers are split between two 12-hour shifts seven days a week to provide around the clock fuel distribution to coalition aircraft operating within the Baghdad area of operations.
The Crazy Horse FARP is the nucleus of air operations within Baghdad, which is the epicenter of Operation Iraqi Freedom. For this reason, quality control and surveillance of petroleum management operations there are second to none, said Martin.
The serviceability of fuel trucks and associated FARP equipment are of the utmost importance, he said.
Each day, prior to any fuel being issued, samples are taken and tests are conducted to ensure quality levels meet or exceed Army aviation standards. This is especially important as the very lives of coalition pilots and those of their supported ground units depend on it.
Even a minor oversight could mean disaster for an aircraft and the mission to which it was assigned. Because of these concerns, Soldiers receive daily safety briefings and are frequently quizzed on their knowledge of emergency battle drills and safety procedures in the event of a catastrophe.
"A lot of people don't realize what high standards we have to hold for our fuel. We really push ourselves to make sure [the pilots] get the best quality of fuel," said Birmingham, Ala., native Pfc. Kristina Hunter, a fueler for Co. E.
Additionally, highly trained and motivated NCOs provide first line supervision of all operations at the FARP, said Martin.
The types of aircraft serviced at the Crazy Horse FARP are far more diverse than anything the Soldiers saw during training conducted prior to deployment.
Within only a few days of operating the Crazy Horse FARP, Soldiers were exposed to a variable menagerie of helicopters.
"We fill up anybody that comes in here - British [Royal Air Force], Navy, Marines and birds from all the different units over here. You come into BIAP to get fuel - we'll take care of you," said Hunter.
On average, 14,000 gallons of fuel are issued to 50 aircraft each day, with busy days surpassing 100 aircraft and over 26,000 gallons.
At the current rate, it is estimated that nearly six million gallons of fuel will be issued to over 21,000 coalition aircraft by the end of the 1st Cavalry Division's current deployment, said Martin.
The importance of combat aviation missions to the overall success of coalition operations throughout the Iraqi theater is clear.
"This is vital to everybody in theater because mobility is the important thing over here – the ability to transport troops, medical supplies, medical personnel [and] fire support – fast," said Hunter. "We provide these helicopters with the fuel to get them where they need to go and it makes a big impact all across the board."