KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (March 4, 2011) - Forward arming and refueling points for Task Force Thunder, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, are places where aircraft can receive fuel and ammunition to continue providing coverage for troops on the ground.
"What we do here at the FARP is critical to the mission that the pilot and his crew are tasked with," said Sgt. Courtney Sykes, the section chief and shift leader, Troop E, 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment. "So it is important that we have good communication between the pilot and the armament Soldier to ensure the aircraft receives what it needs properly, safely and in a timely manner. We pride ourselves on providing a speedy, remarkable customer service, so that the coverage needed to save the lives of our brothers is available."
"Showtime," said several Soldiers as an OH-58D Kiowa approached the FARP for service.
The armament Soldier, Sgt. Michael Skipper, the pad chief for the FARP here, used hand signals to find out what the pilot needed. The pilot gestured back, indicating he needed a drink; this told Skipper the pilot needed fuel.
After a flurry of hand signals from Skipper, the petroleum supply specialists standing near the pump set to work.
"When an aircraft lands, I ground the aircraft and communicate with the pilots to make sure the needs for their mission are met," Skipper said. "I also ensure the safety of all Soldiers near the aircraft at all times. One other armament Soldier is out on the pad with me to provide ammunition service to the aircraft if it is needed, whether it is servicing the .50-cals or loading (rockets) in the rocket pods, we get the job done and fast to ensure mission success."
Safety is paramount when out on the FARP to not only keep all Soldiers safe and in the fight, but also to keep the aircraft on schedule.
"It is very important to me that every Soldier is safe while servicing aircraft here," said Skipper. "We do not need any accidents. All personnel here are important to the mission, and conducting all of them safely allows us to always provide that fast, accurate service needed to get the crew back in the fight."
Petroleum supply specialists have to have situational awareness when ensuring the hose is bonded to the aircraft before pumping fuel, and when shutting off the fuel to disconnect the hose.
"The biggest thing is safety," said Sykes. "Making sure the aircraft is grounded and ensuring that the personnel that are refueling the aircraft are not getting in front of the gun or directly behind the rocket pods and ensuring the nozzle is under the gun, are very important."
All personnel on the FARP ensure that their individual job is done by checking behind themselves.
"The checking and recheck of the bond between the hose is important, because the fuel could harm an individual if it gets in the eyes, causing potential blindness," said Sykes. "We never get too comfortable as Non-Commissioned Officers with our job, and we ensure that our Soldiers do not become complacent either."
In addition to maintaining safety standards, the Soldiers on the FARP also ensure they are well-rounded. If, for some reason, one individual is missing, there's always someone else there who knows that person's job too.
"We all work together as a team," said Skipper. "Teamwork is the key to success in every mission. We ensure that we cross-train all positions to keep the mission going strong and effectively."
After the fuel is shut off, and the hose is disconnected and placed in its proper place, all Soldiers move away to the front of the aircraft allowing the pilots to see them, leaving Skipper to show the pilot the aircraft is ungrounded and cleared to leave.
"Hand signals are important throughout this entire process of servicing any aircraft," said Skipper. "We use them from the time the bird lands to the time that the pilot is ready for takeoff. As a pad chief, I ensure that the bird is cleared to leave after it is ungrounded. After the bird leaves, all personnel regroup to our holding area waiting to service the next bird safely and in a timely fashion."

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