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FARP fueling 3rd MAW success

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 5/02/2004

Story by Staff Sgt. Houston F. White Jr.

AL TAQQADUM, Iraq(May 2, 2004) -- Providing unrelenting support to aviation assets here, the Marines of Forward Arming and Refueling Point, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, work around-the-clock to make certain 3rd MAW planes and helicopters have the fuel they need to "stay in the fight."

"Our job is to refuel any and all aircraft that come here, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," said Gunnery Sgt. David J. Flaishans, staff non-commissioned officer in charge, FARP, MWSS-374. "We have two 7-man teams that work 12 hours on and 12 hours off to keep things rolling."

According to Lance Cpl. Christopher M. Conklin, bulk fuel specialist, FARP, MWSS-374, and 22-year-old San Diego native, the importance of the FARP's mission in a combat environment motivates them to deliver the best service possible.

"It's real life out here, not just practice," he said. "In the case of a CH-46 (medical evacuation), getting fuel to (aircraft) faster could be the key to saving another Marine's life.

"Also, keeping the (AH-1W Super) Cobras out there providing security for MEDEVACs and other missions makes a big difference."

While speed is an essential part of refueling aircraft in a combat environment, safety also plays an integral part in the daily operations of the FARP, said Flaishans, a 37-year-old Trenton, Mich., native.

"We continuously stress following our unit's (standard operating procedures) by making sure we wear all of our safety gear and protective equipment," he said. "We keep our sleeves down and wear goggles, cranials, as well as using hearing protection. My Marines are also very careful to avoid spilling fuel on themselves or the flight line.

"When our crew gets to work, we generally take a look around the fuel farm and make sure that there aren't any leaks or anything else that could compromise safety," added Lance Cpl. William J. Mueller, bulk fuel specialist, FARP, MWSS-374.

The 30-year-old, Appleton, Wis., native commented that the adrenaline surge associated with refueling aircraft makes the FARP Marines' long hours worthwhile.

"I love refueling birds," he said. "It's kind of a charge actually, because we can hear (the helicopters) coming in. A lot of times we have to take off running, or else they'll beat us to the refueling spot. When the (CH-46s) come in we have to guide them in, which is a real rush."

Although the space the FARP Marines occupy may reside outside of the spotlight, the satisfaction they receive from performing a critical function is reward enough.

"We know that anytime an aircraft comes in here, somebody's life could be on the line," said Flaishans. "The bottom line is, if the fuel don't flow, the proud don't go".

"It feels great to help accomplish the mission," Conklin emphasized. "You know you're doing something good when you feel like this."

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