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    40th CAB Soldiers pass their trial by fire

    40th CAB Soldiers pass their trial by fire

    Photo By Sgt. Danielle Rodrigues | Washington Army National Guard Soldiers from Company E, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Ian Kummer 

    40th Combat Aviation Brigade

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan – A fueler section comprised of six Washington National Guard Soldiers and one California National Guard Soldier a participated in nine days of kinetic operations at Forward Operating Base Joyce, Afghanistan, May 6-14.

    FOB Joyce, a rickety outpost of dirt berms and wood towers, became a set-piece for a large-scale Afghan National Army operation against local insurgents.

    Throughout the engagement Afghan and American helicopters provided crucial support to ground forces. For this aviation effort to be possible, FOB Joyce needed a Forward Arming and Refueling Point.

    The job of operating the FARP fell upon Soldiers from Washington’s Company E, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, and California’s 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, 40th Combat Aviation Brigade. These Guardsmen first arrived in Kuwait last December for a fairly quiet deployment of training missions. None of them predicted this sudden reassignment Afghanistan.

    On Less than two weeks earlier on April 25, the commander of Company E, 1st Lt. Theodore Tatum, received a new mission. He was to select six other Soldiers and redeploy from Camp Buehring, Kuwait, to FOB Fenty, Afghanistan. With little time to waste, Tatum selected Soldiers who not only could perform as fuelers, but also manage the numerous other functions required of the small section from operating a fork lift to managing ammunition.

    “I had a roster to fill, and I filled it,” Tatum, a Fircrest, Washington, resident said. “I required a security clearance, a positive attitude, good teamwork, and the ability to be duel-hatted.”

    Redeploying would be no easy task. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the newly formed section was the lack of a proper FARP system to take with them. The Soldiers took parts from three different seemingly incompatible FARP systems and put them together into a jury-rigged apparatus they affectionately nicknamed “Frankenstein.”

    They still didn’t know what to expect once they arrived.

    “Everybody brought something to the table,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Kelley, the FARP noncommissioned officer from Tacoma, Washington.

    On May 2 the small team arrived at FOB Fenty. They had just three days to prepare for their first major kinetic operation. 4th CAB Apaches would need an expeditionary FARP at nearby FOB Joyce to sustain their support operations for the Afghan National Army. Though the FARP was protected by the ANA and Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, the FARP was still a ripe target for indirect fire.

    “We were at the bottom of a valley, everybody could see us,” Tatum said.

    Though the insurgents concentrated their fire against the Afghan observation posts at the FOB’s perimeter, the fuelers found themselves in harm’s way Harm’s Way throughout the operation, with mortar rounds and rocket -propelled grenades often impacting less than a hundred meters away. Despite the risk, the National Guard Soldiers continued their round-the-clock mission, at times providing as much as 2,200 gallons of fuel a day.

    Afghanistan’s heat can be intense, often exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit and relief only arriving with dusk. However, with dusk came increased enemy attacks.

    “As soon as it started to cool off in the evening, they would start hitting us,” Tatum said.

    Heavy rain frequently prevented helicopters from operating, leaving friendly forces more vulnerable to attack. Fortunately, the torrential storms impeded enemy forces just as much and forced them to pause their attacks.
    Despite an intense battle rhythm and the harshness of the elements, morale remained strong.

    “We got here, and it’s just like any other place,” said California Army National Guard Cody Lorincz from Rancho Cucamonga, California. “There’s a fast pace and a lot going on. It’s dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    Spc. Ayla Scott, an Everett, Washington resident and the only female member of the crew, endured the same living conditions and workload as her male counterparts. Unbeknownst to Scott she had also earned the respect of the ANA Soldiers on the base until One day during the mission she Scott received a pleasant surprise.

    “The ANA commander sent me a scarf,” Scott said. “That was cool.”

    On May 14, the team was finally given a reprieve and prepared to return to FOB Fenty.

    The firefight at FOB Joyce may have ended for the fuelers, but their mission is far from over. They expect to be supporting the regional aviation mission for the remainder of their deployment.

    “In my 31 years of experience, I’m saying these guys did an amazing job… especially considering the few people we had,” Kelley said.



    Date Taken: 05.14.2016
    Date Posted: 06.08.2016 10:04
    Story ID: 200332
    Location: FOB JOYCE, AF

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