News: Different times, same design: A historical look at logistics innovation
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Kucera
Every method we use to plan and execute mission in the military were thoughts that had to be born in someone's mind. This is a look at how an innovative approach to re-arming and re-fueling helicopters in Vietnam possibly changed the landscape of the battlefield.
As ideas and best practices are crafted and re-crafted in combat, Vietnam was not any different. Troop movement to and from battlefields was a constant hurdle for commanders. The implementation of air assault missions, moving combat forces or equipment with utility helicopters would not have gotten where it is today without an advancement in logistics such as the Forward Area Refueling and Rearming Point, during this combat period.
Lt. Col. (retired) Ray York, played a predominant role in helping commanders find their solution to this troop movement problem, by his account. His idealism, his ability to convey those ideas to his commanders and senior Army leadership at the Pentagon, inhibited longer range missions for helicopters that carried troops. Therefor allowing quicker, and deeper, insertion of American and friendly forces into enemy territories.
York’s idea came as complete logic to himself. “We discovered one of our biggest problems was to refuel and re-arm out in the field,” York said. “There was no book on it, it had never been done.”
As a company commander at Fort Bragg, N.C., York took part in a training exercise that was implementing the original ideas of air assault missions. The challenge again, was long range missions assigned to helicopter aircraft. Through many observations during this exercise, years later he would be able to make changes to the basic operations of a refueling point that would save lives, York said.
“We needed some way to refuel and re-arm helicopters close in proximity to where they were going to be used. You can’t put 5,000 gallon tankers out there,” explained York. “You can’t put 1,200 gallon tankers out there. They’re too susceptible to gun fire. You could use rubber drums, resupply them internally within the divisions.”
His first day in Vietnam, Feb. 7, 1969, he recalled his unit was hit heavily by enemy forces. They destroyed the main supply refueling and re-armament site at his base. He instantly had a solution to prevent this from happening again.
From what York learned during the training exercise a few years prior, he implemented the ideas he had on the ground in combat.
“I had troops go out and get four 350-gallon pneumatic pumps, all the hose they could get, 500-gallon rubber bags. And I told them I wanted it all there within two hours.” He immediately laid out a plan to be able to refuel and re-arm six helicopters, two at each site, in one operation. They could pump 350 gallons of fuel per minute. He said the plan worked, and they were sure to put guards on it this go around.
“The next night, they (enemy) came back and got their butts kicked royally.”
With that, the Forward Area Refueling and Rearming Point idea became a reality.
York’s neighbor, Sgt. 1st Class Keith King, a human resources NCO assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), recently returned from deployment with the ESC and is assigned to the unit’s massive Support Operations section.
Since meeting York, King said they have become good friends. “We talk about the old Army, the way it was and how it is. It makes me a better person.”
“I think his significant contributions to the military need to be recorded, not lost. Especially when it comes to logistics. Something as important as a FARRP has been in conflicts, this is something logisticians should be proud of,” said King. “The pride of that, I never saw before until I was told. It transcends what logistics is about. Everyone can identify something from his or her career field. For logistics, something like this is what identifies them.”
While assigned at Fort Hood, York published an executive summary test report, MASTER TEST No. 109 in June 1973. This report is the foundation for ATP 3-04.94 for Forward Arming and Refueling Points, the regulation the Army uses today for its FARP mission.
As fate generally would have it, when York decided he wanted to join the military as a young man living in Shamrock, Texas, his initial interest was not the Army, it was the Marine Corps. At the time, the Marine Corps had a policy that did not allow for married men to join. So instead, he joined the Texas Army National Guard in 1951. Following his enlistment, there were several twists of fate along the way and opportunities he was able to take advantage of. His display of never having fear to take on challenges or assignments got York into a position where his methods, and ideals, were respected.
York also played a key role in getting “chem-lights” and motorcycles into the Army supply chain. He said when challenges presented themselves to his commander and the troops, solutions were always present. It just took some ingenuity and the fortitude to overcome the obstacles.