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CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq ? Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 refuel a UH-1N Huey and an AH-1 Super Cobra from Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 775. The Marines are taking part of a five-day operation which they refuel aircraft from HML/A-775 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Fuelers prepare pits in Fallujah

22 Jun 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

The “Sand Sharks” of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 built a forward arming and refueling point here for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 775 as they support a five day operation to conduct random vehicle checkpoint operations throughout the region.

A handful of bulk fuels specialists and a couple mobile fuelers prepared and operated the fuel pits for the operation which wrapped up today.

“The purpose of our mission is to fuel the aircraft in the middle of their missions,” said Cpl. Michael Dombrowski, the FARP noncommissioned officer in charge. “With us here the aircraft are able to expand their operating range.”  Which guarantees that the ground Marines have the air support they need to fulfill their mission requirements.

Preparation for the forward refueling point began with a convoy to get all the necessary gear to successfully operate the fuel pits in place. On the morning of the event the bulk fuel specialists flew in to set up the refueling point; in only 10 minutes the system of pumps, hoses and the tanker truck was ready for refueling operations.

Throughout the operation the Marines dispensed thousands of gallons of fuel.

“We are like a pit stop,” said Dombrowski, a Bayfield, Colo., native. “We get the aircraft in and out quickly. If the aircraft can get filled up and back into the fight we have accomplished our mission.”

Although this is the first forward refueling point the squadron has put together since deploying to Iraq in February, they have had a lot of practice over the years at their home at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz. Yuma is home to the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course where the fuels Marines practice the set up and operation of an expeditionary refueling point twice a year.

“We were prepared for this,” said Lance Cpl. Beau Chaffinch, a bulk fuel specialist and Seaford, Del., native. “We get a lot of practice getting this system operational in a field environment. During those exercises we support all the air assets taking part in the operation.”

Being able to establish a new refueling point is a welcome change of pace for the Marines who mainly work in the hot pits aboard Al Taqaddum fueling aircraft that come and go aboard the base.

“It is great to get out and use our other skills and apply what we have learned over the years,” Chaffinch said. “To get out and participate in an operation like this is a welcome event no matter where it is.”

Marines constantly train to use their skills in operations that make a difference. With the fuels Marines demonstrating their flexibility, the squadron now knows their Marines are capable of accomplishing all tasks surrounding their jobs.   

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