FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- As two AH-64 Apache helicopters approach the forward arming and refueling point on Forward Operating Base Miami, a team of aircraft petroleum supply specialists hustle to their positions to perform tasks necessary for the helicopters to return to the air.

The petroleum suppliers are part of Renegade Troop, 4th Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, participating in the National Training Center rotation May 15 through June 8. Although the 3rd ACR is deploying to Iraq later this summer, 4-3 ACR will break off from the regiment, stay behind, and form a new combat aviation brigade.

After the Apaches settled into their places on the FARP, two teams of four Soldiers approached the helicopters and replenished their fuel. An ammunition specialist checked the weapons systems to see if they needed more ammunition. Another team member stood ready to extinguish a fire if needed.

"It's exciting being under the aircraft," Spc. Christina Smith said about her job as an aircraft petroleum supplier. "It's the most important job out here. Nothing moves without fuel. If the birds don't get fuel, the mission doesn't happen."

The entire process at the FARP took about 20 minutes before the aircraft was ready to resume flying. On a busy day, the process can occur several times. Each time, the team can pump up to 500 gallons of fuel into a helicopter.

"It depends on how long they have been flying. We really don't know until we get under the aircraft," said Smith, a Dededo, Guam, native.

The regiment has a fleet of more than 60 Apaches and 10 UH-60 Blackhawks. Also in their inventory are unmanned aerial vehicles.

Spc. Melvin Stewart said he likes to refuel the Blackhawks the best because of the personal contact he gets with the pilots.

"It's more face-to-face," said Stewart, Newport News, Va., native. "The most enjoyable part [about the job] is meeting different people. I love talking with the pilots."

Staff Sgt. Korento Leverette, a platoon sergeant in Renegade Troop, said the training Stewart and his other Soldiers are receiving at NTC is preparing them well for possible deployments.

"This is real-world training," said Leverette, a Stateline, Miss., native. "This is what we do when we go down range."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16