By 1st Lt. Leyda Ocasio-KanzlerOctober 4, 2017
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Soldiers from the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade are providing critical support in the fight against ISIS by manning remote Forward Arming and Refueling Points, known as FARP, for U.S. aircraft in the region.
The 449th Aviation Support Battalion supports rotary-wing assets by standing up multiple FARPs, which service over 380 aircraft and issue over 257,000 gallons of fuel.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Aldrete is the support operations-petroleum noncommissioned officer in charge for the 449th Aviation Support Battalion and relies on 20 years of experience as a fueler.
In order to develop each FARP and manage it safely, 449th Soldiers needed to conduct site survey analysis, study the wind directions of each location, complete routine fuel testing and calculate expected resupply, said Aldrete, who is on his second deployment with the 449th Aviation Support Battalion. Aldrete's experience in the field helps him lead the Soldiers who are executing these mission critical tasks and complete the planning required to stand up new FARPs.
The 449th Aviation Support Battalion Soldiers constantly assessed their operations and made changes as appropriate, which led to safer and more combat effective FARPs throughout the region, said Capt. Jonathan Ireland, who assisted with planning and resourcing these vital locations.
Soldiers are relied on to fill multiple roles, which include anything from helicopter repairs to fueling.
Spc. Omar Reyes and Sgt. Sidney Lopez, from Company B, 449th Aviation Support Battalion and natives of Houston, Texas, operated one of the FARPs.
This type of work allowed both Soldiers the opportunity to see the aircraft they work on in a different capacity. "We see our birds in action," said Lopez.
As AH-64E Apache maintainers, they were able to assess and provide repairs when needed while providing additional services to ensure safe operations for the pilots.
Reyes saw this opportunity to develop and use his skills, which he considers "the bread and butter of our MOS."
Working on a FARP has given the Aviation Support Battalion Soldiers a sense of pride in how they are able to see the helicopters that they work on continue their missions due to the services that they provide at the FARP, said Lopez.
These Soldiers were the first ones on site and also guaranteed that it was safe to refuel the aircraft and even guided pilots to land in "brown out" conditions.
No matter the location or the challenge, the Soldiers of the 449th Aviation Support Battalion stand ready to accomplish and sustain coalition forces throughout the fight against ISIS in Operation Inherent Resolve.
The 29th Combat Aviation Brigade, an Army National Guard brigade, provides aviation assets, operational and logistical support to Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.