Tabasum Sharqi (left) opens a book she received for graduating at the top of her Fatima Girls High School class at a ceremony held at the Kunar Department of Women’s (click for more)
Soldiers from the Polish Army and the Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team-IV check their shot grouping during qualification on the Polish AK-74 5.56 mm Mini-Beryl short assault rifle Feb. (click for more)
U.S. Army Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, play an impromptu game of volleyball against a team (click for more)
Dr. Mehirulla Muslim, the Nurgaram District subgovernor, addresses an audience of teachers, government officials and citizens during a ceremony to celebrate a completed solar panel electricity project Feb. 21 in (click for more)
U.S. Army Spc. Raheem Stewart, an automations specialist with TF Phoenix, steps along the rafters of the building his team helped wire for communications. Stewart, from Dallas, was one of (click for more)
An Afghan National Army soldier from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 201st Infantry Regiment, searches a pile of rocks in the courtyard of a high-value target home outside the village of (click for more)
U.S. Army Capt. Nicole Zupka of Fair Lawn, N.J., a battlewatch captain with Combined Joint Task Force-Paladin, helps an Afghan child with her writing skills during female engagement team training (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers move through Kharwar District to prevent the Taliban’s freedom of movement Feb. 12. U.S. and Afghan soldiers braved more than 3 feet (click for more)
Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team II members, U.S. Army Spc. Justin Allen (left), a London, Ky., native, and U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Combs, a Corbin, Ky., native, get to know a (click for more)
A vehicle pulls up to the pumps, and the crew runs out to fill it up. The only difference for the Army fuelers of Company E, 310th Task Force Phoenix, is that some of the vehicles are helicopters, and they are in Afghanistan.
“Most of what we do is ground fuel for vehicles, but our priority mission is for the birds (Army helicopters),” said U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew Lauilefue, a shift leader of the petroleum supply specialist team from Co. E. “We fill up Chinooks, Apaches, Kiowas, and a whole bunch of civilian birds.”
Lauilefue, from Honolulu, and his team of fellow fuelers from Fort Drum, N.Y., who run the Forward Area Refueling Point at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, in support of the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Ironman, are coming off a very busy week. They provided the fuel for every bird participating in Operation Bull Whip, which was the largest air assault mission conducted by the 101st Airborne Division during their year-long deployment to Afghanistan.
During Bull Whip, Co. E’s fuelers pumped more aircraft fuel than at any other time all year. They refuelled 40 helicopters in a single day.
“We pumped 10,000 gallons of aircraft fuel alone in one day during that mission,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Christian Grabowsi, the other shift leader for the petroleum supply specialist team from Co. E, and a native of Hinsdale, N.Y.
The fuelers usually pump around 4,000 gallons of fuel in a typical day.
On this day, April 9, the fuelers were having a fairly busy day. A couple Blackhawks came in for fuel, and the fuelers, hearing the helicopters in the distance grabbed their helmets, gloves and eye protection. They were waiting by the fuel points when the helicopters landed. As soon as the Soldiers got back to the shack and removed their gear, they had to put it back on, this time it was a team of Kiowas.
Another responsibility of the fuelers at the Mehtar Lam FARP is re-arming Kiowa helicopters with missiles, rockets and ammunition, but do not handle Apaches.
The fuelers do what is known as a “hot” refuel, meaning they are refuelling the birds with the rotors turning and engines still on. They do this for speed, said Givian.
The fuelers do not know the situation behind the aircraft they are refuelling. While that helicopter may just be delivering some equipment from one base to another, it could also be en route to a medical evacuation or a situation with troops in contact and need to get there.
This means that time is of the essence, so the goal is to get the helicopters refuelled as quickly as possible while still being safe, said U.S. Army Sgt. Rockieve Givian, the fuel team’s non-commissioned officer-in-charge from Atlanta, Ga.
Doing this successfully is how the fuelers are able to make an impact on the battlefield, the fuelers said.
“We know that we’re a support element, but at the same time we know when birds are coming in hot that we need to get them loaded, get them moved and get them back in the fight,” said Grabowski. ”Time on ground is time lost for an infantry unit who may need them.”
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