MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Leathernecks with Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 participated in tactical refueling training alongside Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Jan. 27. The training took place at Landing Zone Bluebird at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
According to Gunnery Sgt. Leroy Pianka, the mission commander for the forward arming and refueling point, this kind of training allows his Marines to refuel and rearm various types of rotary wing aircraft in a relatively short period of time.
“Altogether it’s about a 40-to 45-minute process,” said Pianka. “Bulk fuels specialists, aircraft rescue firefighters and aviation ordnance Marines all come together to make the process run smoothly.”
Sgt. Eric W. Reid, a bulk fuels specialist with MWSS-271, served as a line safety noncommissioned officer for the training exercise. The LSN guarantees that the fuel moves from its storage tank to the aircraft successfully. The LSN also informs his Marines when to stop the flow of fuel.
“I’m responsible for keeping an eye on the meter and making sure that no fuel is spilled,” said Reid. “The jet propellant is a hazardous material that can’t afford to be spilled on the ground. If any is spilled, we have to immediately dig up the ground where the spill happened until all traces of the fuel are gone.”
Safety is paramount when performing a tactical refueling operation. Communication from the pilots to the Marines on the ground is crucial to a safe and successful refueling and rearmament operation. In a deployed environment, it’s necessary for everyone to be aware of the dangers the aircraft pose, as well as the rounds that might come downrange at any time, said Reid.
“In a combat environment we have a team that provides security for the operation,” said Reid. “We still have to make sure we concentrate on what we’re doing, especially when someone is aiming in on us.”
Before the bulk fuels specialists can refuel the aircraft, aviation ordnance Marines move in quickly to disarm and rearm the birds.
“We load the ordnance on and off to simulate a combat situation,” said Gunnery Sgt. James Saylor, an aviation ordnance technician with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467. “We allow the aircraft to receive their fuel and ordnance in one place, so they can continue to put more rounds on target.”
Multiple ground units in the area request the support of MWSS-271 from time to time to make sure they are up to speed on how the tactical refueling process works, said Pianka. The training really gives his Marines a chance to shine.
“This is such a huge combined-arms exercise,” said Pianka. “This is where the money is made for our guys. These Marines get a lot out of it.”
A properly functioning FARP is imperative in combat.
“No operation would be able to take place without the fuel we provide,” said Reid. “It really makes us feel like we’re doing something important.”
“Out here we make all the pieces of the puzzle come together. It’s the best thing in the world seeing it all happen in a tactical environment,” said Pianka. “Marines make things happen and do everything professionally. That is why the rest of the world fears and loves us.”