SALEM, Ore. - A hiker is lost on a mountain. Rescue teams are called out for the search. The missing person is found but helicopter support is needed to pull the hiker out of an isolated area. The Oregon Army National Guard’s 2-641 Aviation is called in. The rescue is a success. Families are reunited and it is a happy ending. When scenarios such as this occur, the success takes more than just the crew we see in the air. It all begins on the ground.
“Most people see the aircraft on the news,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Braeme, of Sublimity, Ore., the aviation maintenance officer with C Company, 7-158 Aviation. “It’s all the guys in the background that really get the job done.”
The soldiers of 2-641 AVN in Salem make sure the equipment is safe and ready for rescue missions, fire fighting and military support operations. It takes a lot of people to get the aircraft up and going, Braeme added. Fuelers are a part of that group.
The fuelers keep the aircraft supplied with fuel throughout the missions. They conduct two different refueling techniques, hot and cold.
Hot refueling is when the helicopters fly to where the fuel truck is located, all personnel except the pilots exit the aircraft, and the engines are reduced to an idle. Cold refueling occurs after the aircraft has been shut down, the personnel are removed from the area, then the fuel truck is moved to the aircraft, said Staff Sgt. Michael Paul, of Salem, an aviation fueler and noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Detachment 1, E Company, 7-158.
The hot exhaust from the engines and the explosiveness of the fuel can create a dangerous environment for the fuelers. Safety is an essential part of the job.
Safety measures are strictly adhered to for the protection for the soldiers and the aircraft said Staff Sgt. Paul.
The hot refueling process takes 5-10 minutes and the aircraft is back in the air.
“They are top notch,” said 1st Sgt. Travis Powell, a flight medic and first sergeant for C Company, 7-158.
Other support teams include the headquarters personnel, operations specialists, supply, mechanics and administration. The soldiers help with organization, coordination and the basic needs for a smooth running operation.
“The soldiers are passionate about their jobs,” said Powell. “Without them we would never have a mission complete,” said Powell. ”They are my success.”