When it comes to an Army aviation unit, helicopters are only as effective as their fuel tanks let them be. Thats where the ingenuity of creating rapid refuel points allows missions to be conducted over a larger radius.
The reason rapid refuel points exist is to eliminate the number of times helicopters have to cool down for cold refueling. The hot refueling limits the time it takes for helicopters to get back in the air and train or conduct missions, said Sgt. 1st Class Severino B. Ignaco, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade senior petroleum supply specialist.
But when you take all the moving parts of refueling alone and combine it with a running helicopter, refueling teams must expand their knowledge beyond initial training.
More than 50 petroleum supply specialists, 92F Army military occupational specialty identifier, from the 16th CAB, 7th Infantry Division joined in a weeklong hot refuel training conducted by the 46th Aviation Support Battalion support operations section.
The primary objective of the training was to provide consolidated training for the brigade on Class III petroleum fuels operations, said 1st Lt. Canyon Yeamans, SPO transportation officer. Training included administration, accountability, audit trails, maintenance, testing, and cold and hot refuel operations.
Each 92F Soldier in the 16th CAB gains knowledge on a limited number of helicopter airframes depending on the subordinate unit they are assigned.
The training was designed to get all Soldiers involved in Class III distribution across the brigade on the same page with regards to all of the topics covered and become knowledgeable of any airframe they could come in contact with, Yeamans said.
The 16th CAB looked to its sister aviation units on Joint Base Lewis-McChord to assist with training due to being limited to only having AH-64E Apaches with the 1-229 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, UH-60M Black Hawks with the 2-158 Assault Helicopter Battalion and OH-58D Kiowa Warriors currently deployed to South Korea with the 4-6th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron.
The 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and the Washington Air National Guard supported the training by providing airframes and subject matter experts.
We received outstanding support from all of the aviation assets on JBLM to help us reach our goal, Yeamans said. The 4-160 SOAR and the WAANG provided CH-47 Chinooks and OH-58 Kiowas needed for training, which truly helped and ensured training was accomplished on the four airframes typically found in an aviation brigade.
On the final day of training, every Soldier ran various stations during a live exercise where the airframes took turns landing at the 16th CAB rapid refuel point on Gray Army Airfield. Soldiers cycled between communication operations through radios and hand and arm signals, running fuel operations on the heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks, pulling fire guard over watch and connecting fuel hoses to the different airframes.
Safety was a constant block of instruction as classes prepared Soldiers to go from cold refueling when the airframe is off to hot refueling when the engine is still on.
The Soldiers have to be careful of what angle they approach the aircraft because of the spinning blades and the safety helmet, goggles and gloves are to help protect them from the debris, Ignaco said. Another important safety concern is grounding the helicopter because of all of the static electricity that builds up when its running, but that is why all of the noncommissioned officers are out here, training and safety.
At the end of the training, more than 50 Soldiers increased their mission effectiveness for theater operations, training and deployments.
A lot of the Soldiers here got to experience hot refueling for the first time during this training. This training was very beneficial to the Soldiers as well as the brigade because they will run into all of these airframes in the future, especially in Afghanistan, Ignaco said.