MWSS-172 refuels helicopters during Exercise Lejeune II
CAMP SCHWAB, OKINAWA, Japan -- Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 established forward arming and refueling points Sept. 10 at Landing Zone Phoenix at Camp Schwab to support operations conducted by three Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during Exercise Lejeune II.
MWSS-172 provided refueling support for Marine and Army units during the exercise, which is a joint aerial assault exercise involving 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment; the Army’s 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade; and 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. Both 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, and 2nd Bn., 6th Marines, are currently assigned to 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.
The exercise is designed to enhance and increase the U.S. Marine and Army forces combat readiness and joint capabilities.
“During the exercise, we are working with the Army, so that the helicopters can transport Marines expediently to different parts of the training grounds,” said Lance Cpl. Jose L. Valencia, a bulk fuel specialist with MWSS-172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF. “Usually, we set up refueling stations at established landing zones, but for (FARP training) we go to terrain that has unusual features, so that it feels like a realistic scenario.”
The purpose of the FARP is to expediently fuel aircraft at temporary landing zones in order to facilitate immediate takeoff, according to Staff Sgt. Mario A. Diazregalado, a company gunnery sergeant with MWSS-172.
“Fueling aircraft at FARPs is similar to refueling at professional car races in the sense that it is crucial to maintain that steady and fast flow of liftoffs and refueling,” said Diazregalado. “In a realistic scenario, we move to the landing zone with the fuel tank and prepare the refueling points while the helicopters are conducting their operations, so that the aircraft do not have to wait to be refueled.”
The Marines also monitor fuel levels and evaluate fuel potency.
“We regularly test the fuel to make sure that contaminants are not going into the helicopters and that a steady flow of fuel goes from the helicopter-expedient refueling system to the hoses,” said Sgt. Phillip D. Rial, the pit noncommissioned officer and bulk fuel specialist with MWSS-172. “We also make sure that the pilots are using safety precautions prior to refueling. If the aircraft isn’t grounded yet or is not secured, we can’t clear the aircraft to begin the refueling process.”
The training left the Marines with a healthy appreciation and understanding of the importance of each component of the FARP and the role they play during operations.
“Once you’ve set up and worked with FARPs a few times, you understand that everything and everyone plays a vital part to successfully refueling the aircraft,” said Valencia. “It helps the unit be prepared for combat deployments.”