RIMPAC: On the spot refueling

By Connie Braesch DLA Energy Public Affairs

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Imagine being on an active runway far from an actual airport refueling military helicopters one after another while their rotors are still turning.

That is exactly what the Army General Support Aviation Battalion 3-25 did during the 2018 Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii, June 25 to Aug. 3.

“We have a FARP set up, which is a Forward Arming and Refueling Point. However for the extent of this exercise, it’s used for fueling purposes,” said Army 2nd Lt. Erik Brick, the officer in charge of the Ford Island FARP and a distribution platoon leader for the 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division from Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii.

In order to be sure any helicopter that landed could receive the right type of fuel, Brick’s unit partnered with Defense Logistics Agency Energy.

“Normally we have our own fuel farm located on Wheeler, but for the extent of this exercise we coordinated with DLA Energy to pick up the fuel on Pearl Harbor,” he said. “We are using JP-5 fuel, which is aviation grade and the international standard, and we have three HEMTTs, (heavy expandable mobility tactical truck) each holding around 2,500 gallons (of fuel).”

The FARP was particularly busy during RIMPAC’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise July 11-12. In the exercise scenario, a major earthquake and tsunami have struck the islands inflicting massive casualties, aftershocks and extensive infrastructure damage. Ford Island, located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, became the triage site with mobile hospital units where military helicopters participating in the exercise could land, pick up/drop off patients and refuel.

Brick’s battalion was responsible for coordinating refueling as well as helicopter landings on Ford Island to ensure that flight traffic was controlled.

“It’s not only joint but a coalition effort between foreign navies,” he said. “There are over 25 countries out here as well as the U.S. Air Force, Marines, Navy and Army coordinating efforts to practice procedures working with the local hospitals as well as with each other.”

As the Department of Defense Executive Agent for bulk petroleum, fuel is DLA Energy-owned until it is issued to a specific unit. After receiving the fuel, Brick’s team kept close accountability of the fuel as it was issued.

“Once we have the fuel in our trucks, we fill out a more meticulous log of fuel down to the gallon issued based on the aircraft type and tail number,” Brick said. “Then, the crew chief for that helicopter will sign for it keeping accountability and confirming receipt.”

At the end of the day, the log is tallied and the unit maintains all paperwork associated with every aircraft that received fuel from that location.

For 40 days, Brick said his team manned the busy FARP without incident.

When asked if the coordination went smoothly, Brick said there was one minor miscommunication but overall the process flowed smoothly.

“I was under the assumption we were stopping to pick up the fuel, but instead we had to work closely with DLA to coordinate a time and place to pick up that fuel,” he said. “DLA was great to work with and sent me a lot of examples of forms as well as instructions on how to fill out the forms. So, a problem that I initially thought would be a major issue for operations was actually resolved very quickly and professionally.”

Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, about 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security of the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971.