Fuelers in Action
58th Quartermaster Company Soldiers from Fort Lee, Va., 'hot refuel' a U.S. Navy aircraft during Exercise Southbound Trooper Feb. 19 at the Virginia National Guard installation.

Fort Lee, Va. (Feb. 28, 2008) -- The 49th Quartermaster Group's motto, "Fueling the Force," doesn't begin to describe all the combat service support it provided for the 36 and 37 Canadian Brigade Groups during field training exercises held at Fort Pickett the past two weeks.

"What we extended to the Canadians was, 'Anything that you need, we will provide,'" said the 49th QM Group's commander, Col. John P. Curran, during the exercise.

Maybe that should be the unit's new motto. The 49th provided the full range of its sustainment capabilities to more than 400 members of the Canadian Army Reserve, the principal participant in the joint Granite Triangle, Southbound Trooper VIII and Maritime Raider field training exercises held at the Virginia National Guard installation.

That included fuel support for ground vehicles and aircraft, transportation functions and a 500-personnel-capacity tent city built from the ground up for exercise participants.

More than 700 Soldiers from the 49th QM Group took part in the training centered on a peacekeeping operations scenario. Curran said the training was invaluable.

"My assessment is that we are better than when we came out here," he said. "There's always time to improve your fox-holing and get better. As they say, 'even the best batters have holes in their swing.'"

The exercise, which also included Virginia, North Carolina and New Hampshire National Guard Soldiers and U.S. Navy units from Norfolk, affords the 49th a rare opportunity for large-scale training.

The exercise was even larger than last year's because the unit set up a group tactical operations center in addition to tactical operations centers for its 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and its 240th QM Battalion.

"The idea here," said Curran, "is that, at the same time we're providing support to the Canadians, we're exercising all of our systems and processes - our automation systems, tracking systems and all of our requisitioning systems."

The bulk of the 49th's support, however, comprised the fuel piece. It provided the numerous vehicles with fuel supplies at locations around the post and established a forward area refueling point at Fort Pickett's air field.

Capt. Matthew Messerschmitt, 58th QM Co. commander, 240th QM Bn., said he had about 45 Soldiers supporting the air field operations.

"We conducted about 10 missions a day, and so far we've completed 55 aircraft refuels," he said, noting that rain, high wind and freezing temperatures made it all the more difficult.

Those 55 refuels included 'hot refuels,' a potentially hazardous practice in which Soldiers refuel aircraft while engines are running.

"This is outstanding training," he said, noting that Fort Lee doesn't have an air field. "We don't experience this type of training back at Fort Lee. They (Soldiers) get to see another part of their (military occupational specialty)."

While Soldiers of the 58th were taking full advantage of their training opportunities, Soldiers of the 267th were also making the best of theirs. The company, an element of the 240th, is a fuel pipeline unit that was not directly involved in the exercise. However, about 60 Soldiers from the unit deployed near the action and fully engaged themselves in a project to install, operate and maintain 3.4 miles of pipeline.

"Our job was to set up the system (pumping water, not fuel) in 48 hours," said Staff Sgt. Mitchell Mier, 267th pipeline platoon sergeant. "It took us about two and half days, so I think our guys did a great job."

In a real-world deployment, the company would be charged with operation and maintenance of the Army's Inland Petroleum Distribution System. During Southbound Trooper, however, the unit actually laid the pipe, a job that is normally accomplished by engineers.

"You learn more about the system when you set it up," said Mier. "It was very hard work, but I think that guys were motivated and we're proud of our efforts."

The 109th replaced the 267th last week and began retrograde operations. The entire exercise will terminate by the end of the week. Exercises, such as the ones held the past three weeks, are building blocks to individual and unit proficiency, Curran said.

"The number one priority is to train our Soldiers so they are ready to fight and win," he said. "Our number one focus is force protection. Soldiers need to know how to protect themselves and how to conduct their missions in a combat environment. If we can train them to do those things, they are going to come back to us."

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