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Iraqi Forces create long range refueling capabilities to enable future operations

October 17, 2011

By Staff Sgt. Nancy Lugo

The ground vibrated from the powerful engines of more than 20 military vehicles as they rolled through the predawn twilight of Oct. 10. Soldiers from 7th Iraqi Army Division and Paratroopers with 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division convoyed for over three hours from Camp Ramadi to an Iraqi Army outpost within aircraft range of the border with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. As the sun crested the horizon, the convoy pulled into the outpost operated by the 29th Brigade, 7th IA.

The massive convoy of Iraqi Soldiers and Paratroopers was aimed at building a forward area refueling point (FARP) for aircraft to extend Iraqi Security Forces' reach to the borders of Iraq. This refueling point would ensure that the ISF would have the capabilities to conduct anti-smuggling and counter-terrorism operations in the remote Iraqi desert.

For the week leading up to the convoy, 7th IA Soldiers had been training with Paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment on Camp Ramadi, learning how to build, run and maintain a FARP capable of supporting aircraft.

The week started with classroom instruction that detailed the capabilities, requirements, and specifications of the FARP equipment and operation of the fueling outpost itself.

But the classroom instruction quickly led to hands on training at the FARP located on Camp Ramadi. There, Paratroopers from the 407th Brigade Support Battalion instructed their Iraqi counterparts on the construction and operation of the fuel station and refueling of still running helicopters, referred to as "hot refueling."

"We had good hands on training, these Soldiers can train others," said Sgt. Maj. Fadhil Tahir Murib, with Logistics and Support Company, 7th IA.

A FARP consists of massive rubber containers that can hold up to 20,000 gallons of fuel; pumping, filtering and water separation systems; and hundreds of feet of fuel lines. The entire system can be drained and loaded onto the back of transport vehicles. This system allows the ISF to quickly and efficiently set up the fuel point in remote locations that may not be accessible to large construction equipment and more permanent structures.

"Prior to this, the closest place to refuel was Al-Asad Air Base. We have extended their operational reach 45 minutes to the west," said Lt. Col. Charles J. Masaracchia, commander of 1-325th AIR.

As the convoy pulled up to the remote outpost, nearly a hundred miles from the nearest city, the combined forces began unloading the equipment and tools. Each Soldier or Paratrooper set out with a task to accomplish: filling sandbags, laying out fuel pipes, designating the helicopter landing zones, or providing security for the operation.

A bulldozer was used to smooth an area suitable to place two 20,000-gallon collapsible fuel tanks and also build a dirt mound to surround and protect the containers. At the same time, Iraqi Soldiers, using the knowledge learned from the previous week of training, began assembling all the necessary hoses, couplings, nozzles, pumps, and grounding rods to complete the refueling point.

"It went really well. This was the biggest part of all. Once we're done with that [assembling the system], we filled up the fuel bags, and tested the whole system for functionality," said Sgt Karoll Echeverri, squad leader in E Co., 407th BSB.

Hoses were connected to the pump, then fuel was pumped into the tanks and out to the two newly constructed landing zones capable of receiving aircraft.

Along with the FARP equipment, the 1-325th AIR also provided the 7th IA with over 6,000 gallons of fuel. This fuel allowed the Soldiers to test and prime the system, but also to have the resources on hand to begin conducting operations using the FARP immediately.

With the FARP constructed and fully functional the ISF are now capable of operations throughout the remote portions of western al-Anbar province.

"What we have done here today is the best example of a sustainable capability by the Iraq Army. They identified the need for it (FARP), and we provided the assets to do it," said Masaracchia.

With the advanced training the 7th IA Soldier received, they will now be able to train other ISF Soldiers to build and operate fueling points across Iraq. "They have got it and now they will take this and train other forces from here," Masaracchia said.

As the work in the blazing desert sun came to a close, the Iraqi Soldiers and U.S. Paratroopers shared a meal to celebrate their accomplishments, training, and work together.

"It was really great seeing the Iraqi Soldiers going from not knowing how to fuel aircraft, to building and running their own FARP," said Echeverri.

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