By Airman 1st Class Greg ErwinAugust 24, 2017
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Members from the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan and the 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) converged on Kadena in early August for a battalion collective training exercise.
The exercise tested unit readiness in responding to planned and unplanned contingencies, and they used Kadena and 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels management flight to make sure those operations could be completed.
"We come down here to do joint training with the 1st Special Forces Group because they're the only Army maneuver group in Japan that we can work with," said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jimmy Kafer, a pilot for the USAABJ. "It gives us a chance to do training in a field environment, and an opportunity to do confined area landing, sling load operations, and airborne operations."
The USAABJ used UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the exercise due to their versatility of use. UH-60s are capable of use for cargo sling load and parachute jumps, as well as medical evacuation and VIP transport.
The 18th LRS fuels management team is the lifeline to flight operations. Without the fuel, flight operations cannot happen, and members like U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerald Hickmon, 18th LRS fuels distribution supervisor, keep operations moving.
"We enable units to maintain flight ops through fuel support by supporting any and every aircraft that comes through, whether it's diesel or gasoline," said Hickmon. "We make sure they get the fuel, because without us they wouldn't be able to fly."
The UH-60s used by the U.S. Army are similar to HH-60's stationed at Kadena, but the obstacles of working with different units made the job a challenge for the 18th LRS Fuels team.
"One of the obstacles for fueling some of these special ops aircraft is they have the blades running," said Hickmon. "We have to have specialized, qualified people for the hot refueling, and we have to position our guys out there prior to them landing."
Last year alone, the 18th LRS Fuels team distributed over 40 million gallons of fuel during operations, at an estimated cost of $88.8 million. The unit vehicle inventory consists of 57 vehicles, including 40 R-11 Refuelers, that are ready, on call and prepared to service aircraft at a moment's notice.
Kafer and other members of USAABJ successfully completed their training thanks to Team Kadena's capabilities and mission readiness.
"I don't think we'd be here and be able to do what we do without your support," said Kafer. "If we didn't have that level of support, it would have been a much more difficult transition to be able to do mission support here ourselves."