US Marines with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 conducted forward arming and refueling point operations (FARP) as part of Assault Support Training 1 at the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, California, in support of the semiannual Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17, April 17.
Lasting seven weeks, WTI is a training evolution hosted by MAWTS-1 which provides standardized advanced and tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine aviation training and readiness.
Marine WTI students were tested on their ability to come together to run the FARP at the Bull Attack FARP location supporting AST-1.
“A FARP is an area to get us more fuel and ammo that is closer to the objective area,” said Cpl. Justin Gilstrap, UH-1Y Huey crew chief from Marines Light Attack Squadron (HMLA) 167 and a WTI student with MAWTS-1. “This makes it to where we don’t have to fly all the way back to base or airfield to get more fuel and ammo, allowing us to get back on station a lot quicker.”
In order for the aircraft to land to refuel or reload, or to take off, an air traffic controller communicates with the pilot to make sure his air space is safe. The air traffic controller Marine keeps the pilot updated on wind speed and direction, and of other aircraft that may be in the same air space.
“There are four hot points, which means the aircraft will still be running when they get their fuel, and there are also cold spots where they fire down to refuel,” said Sgt. Nicolas Ramirez, air traffic controller with Marine Air Control Squadron (MACS) 2, Attachment A. “I help with coordination of which spot, hot or cold, the pilots want to land in. They tell me which spot and I coordinate with the FARP officer in charge and they relay that information to the Marines. It’s a communication relay from the pilot to me, giving me the knowledge to grant the aircraft landing clearance.”
When the aircraft has landing clearance, the pilot then communicates if the aircraft needs to be refueled or reloaded. Bulk fuel Marines, Marines specializing in fueling Marine Corps assets including ground vehicles, generators, and aircraft, come in and refuel the aircraft. In hot spots, the refuelers are able to fuel the aircraft while it is still turning, making it a quicker process while ordnance Marines are preparing to load the aircraft.
“What we, ordnance, do is when the aircraft come in, we de-arm them and the pilots let us know if they need to be refueled or reloaded,” said Sgt. Zachary Beeler, aviation ordnance technician with MAWTS-1. “If the pilots need a hot fuel, we have to de-arm the aircraft, essentially putting it on safe. When the fuelers are done, we arm the aircraft back up and load them with ordnance. Without ordnance you pretty much just have a surveillance aircraft. We put the attack, in light attack.”
The FARP operations training provided during WTI gives the Marines rare training with all the air and ground assets that everyday training doesn’t provide them.
“The first month here was a lot of academics and a lot of information,” said Capt. David Cybulski, UH-1Y Huey pilot from HMLA-269, with MAWTS-1 as a WTI student pilot. “You get to see how the whole entire Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) integrates and how it all comes together. This right here gives you a prime example of what the Marine Corps says it can do.”