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Flight of the Tigers

15 Aug 2008 | Lance Cpl. Stefanie C. Pupkiewicz (OKIMAR STAFF)

Marines with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), joined airmen from 1st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Group, on Kadena Air Base, for a rapid ground refueling exercise, Aug. 8.

The exercise took place at a forward arming and refueling point established on the island by the 1st SOS, 353rd SOG airmen and Marines with Detachment 18, a support detachment assigned to HMM-262 (REIN), the aviation combat element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The coordination with the Air Force for a rapid ground refueling is not typical, said Capt. Jonathan C. Spencer, a pilot with HMM-262 (REIN), also known as the Flying Tigers.

When both services reserved Ie Shima's airfield, the command saw the opportunity to train with the Air Force and worked it out.

Ie Shima, an island to the northwest of Okinawa, was selected for the exercise to simulate an expeditionary airfield because of its non-standard coral runway.

The rapid ground refueling was setup with the Air Force C-130 Hercules performing the role of the fuel source with fuel lines running at least 300 feet to where the Sea Knight helicopters would taxi up to the refuel point and simulate taking on fuel.

"This is, by far, one of the most dangerous things we do," described Air Force Master Sgt. Jeffrey W. Barnes with the 1st SOS, 353rd SOG.

He went on to say that the practice helps improve the proficiency of the airmen and the Marines participating, and it also helps reduce the likelihood of errors.

"It's an invaluable asset, especially when you are out there," Spencer said and further described the FARP as a "mobile full-service gas station."

The Marine Corps has the same capabilities for supplying fuel to its aircraft during rapid ground refueling with its Hercules aircraft and its CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters.

Rapid ground refueling is used by HMM-262 (REIN) pilots during deployments to the Philippines and Thailand when they cannot carry enough fuel to make it all the way, said Spencer.

The joint training was seen by Barnes as a positive step in helping maintain wartime readiness for both services, and he looks forward to training with the Marine Corps again in the future.


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit