News: Aviation petroleum specialists perform critical mission, look to set new standard
Story by Sgt. Jason Dangel
By Sgt. Jason Dangel
Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Over a to-go box of Army chow, Spc. Edward Gunter stares up at placard posted inside a small, enclosed break area on Camp Taji, July 10.
The sign reads 4 million gallons, representing an aviation distribution fueling record set by the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division earlier this year.
This isn't the first time Gunter has been in this position. Only 18-months ago the seasoned fueler from Philadelphia, Penn., along with the rest of Company A, 404th Avn. Support Battalion, CAB, 4th Infantry Div., Multi-National Division – Baghdad, handed over the mission to the CAB, 1st Cav. Div., fuelers.
The "Ivy Division" company had the record for most fuel pumped in a rotation before it was broken by their Fort Hood, Texas, rivals during the last rotation.
"We set the standard every time we come here," Gunter said still staring at the sign lofted above his bench seat. "We pumped about 3.5 millions gallons of aviation fuel with no incidents the last time.
"Every time we roll into combat we strive to set the standard for all the units that come after us. Every mission is a little different but we always adapt; new faces, new character, new attitude."
Soldiers of the unit consider their job to be one of the most critical jobs in the Army and don't take their duties lightly. Simply put, without fuel the aircraft doesn't fly.
Two twenty-man teams working 12-hour shifts operate small and convenient "aviation gas stations" called Forward Arming and Refueling Points
These FARPs, operating 24/7, provide both fuel and ammunition for the CABs fleet of aircraft.
During operations, helicopters are refueled while they are still running. This increases the speed and capabilities of aviation missions.
A FARP can be set-up at any location where there is enough room for an aircraft to land. Petroleum specialists can set-up as many as six points in one location.
Initially, before a FARP becomes operational, extensive checks are done at every point of the landing zone. Equipment, safety signs and even the condition of the landing zone are checked twice daily to ensure all operations run smoothly.
Currently the CAB uses FARPs throughout the MND-B area of operations to complete their missions. The refueling points can accommodate all types of coalition rotor aircraft.
"Speed is important, but safety is always first," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Villarreal, petroleum, oils and lubricants non-commissioned officer-in-charge, Co. A.
"First and foremost we are extremely careful to ensure everyone is safe and at the same time get the job done as efficiently as possible," the 20-year Rio Grande City, Texas, native added.
Villarreal's focus on safety while simultaneously providing rapid fueling operations for the "Iron Eagle" Brigade, contributed highly to the unit's success in 2006 during Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07.
During the brigade's last 12-month mission, Villarreal's platoon set numerous records which in turned helped him earn the American Petroleum Institute's Tactical Petroleum Operations Soldier of the Year Award last March.
This time around, the Soldiers of the "Iron Eagle Providers" battalion are focused yet again on setting the standard in fueling operations.
"We set the standard every time we come here. This is our third time back and we get better every time. We shoot for the best," said Spc. Miguel Melendez-Medina, FARP shift supervisor, a native of Puerto Rico.
"A lot of our success, I think, comes from our leaders. We have great NCOs. They are out there with us everyday doing what we do and you couldn't ask for anything better."
This work, Aviation petroleum specialists perform critical mission, look to set new standard, by SPC Jason Dangel, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.