COMBAT OUTPOST OUELLETTE, Afghanistan --
Staff Sgt. Rockey L. Crump gives his Marines the five-minute warning. An AH-1W Cobra is inbound to Combat Outpost Ouellette and needs fuel. With just three minutes remaining, the Cobra radios back requesting full ordnance.
The helicopter touches down and the Marines launch into action. Ordnance Marines disarm the aircraft, then fuelers move in to quench its thirst. Once the refueling is complete, the ordnance Marines again take over and re-arm the bird with a fresh supply of ammunition.
Sgt. Veronica L. Ortega, an aviation ordnance specialist with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, checks the rockets, rounds and missiles loaded onto the Cobra one last time.
After less than 10 minutes on the ground, the Cobra is back in the Afghan skies, providing close-air support for grunts on the ground.
“We were reloading and refueling an aircraft that was going back out into the fight,” said Ortega, a native of Stratford, Texas. “Ordnance Marines switch out regularly or so and I like being here because I get to actually see the troops I support.”
The forward arming and refueling point was recently constructed at Combat Outpost Ouellette to enable 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) to better support Marines and other coalition troops operating near Sangin, Afghanistan.
“The FARP significantly improves the air time for rotary wing aircraft, and extends air support coverage for the troops on the ground,” said 1st Lt. James L. O’Shaughnessy, the commandant for Combat Outpost Ouellette. “In my opinion, the addition of the FARP to Ouellette has been a force multiplier and has significantly aided in the battalion’s overall success in the region.”
Within the last two weeks the Marines have brought the FARP to its full operational capability. The Marines are able to supply fuel and ordnance 24 hours a day to the aircraft supporting the troops on the ground.
“The FARP has multiple helicopters coming in for refueling each day,” said Crump, with Marine Wing Support Squadron 272, the officer in charge of the forward arming and refueling point at Combat Outpost Ouellette.“We are on 24-hour call for fuel or ordnance.”
Marines and Sailors from MWSS-272 and HMLA-169 keep the FARP running around the clock, providing fuel and ammunition for coalition aircraft. Most days the Marines and Sailors are awake before the sun rises and work until well after it sets.
“We are ready to support the birds whether it’s a scheduled landing or not,” said Crump.
Motor transport specialists with MWSS-272 regularly transport fuel and supplies to the FARP. The support from MWSS-272 at Camp Leatherneck enables the Marines at the FARP to complete their mission.
“I have been very impressed with their work ethic, attention to details and the standards the Marines on the FARP have set for themselves,” said Sgt. Maj. Robert A. Allen, the sergeant major of MWSS-272.
When the Marines with MWSS-272 and HMLA-169 arrived at Combat Outpost Ouellette it was little more than a landing zone. Since that time they have built fuel bladders that hold more than 40,000 gallons of fuel, and have improved the landing areas for the aircraft.
“It’s a team effort,” said Crump, a native of Cartersville, Ga, “The Marines enjoy having the opportunity to do this. It makes all of us feel good that we can make a difference.”
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