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Sgt. Matthew Sherrill, a crew chief from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, watches as the crew does a bulk refueling of a Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 "Huey" helicopter. The squadron was in Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Az. in support of Exercise Burmese Catch Sept. 23.

Photo by Cpl Aubry L. Buzek

‘Warhorses’ provide fuel for horsepower

24 Sep 2009 | Cpl. Aubry L. Buzek

When a helicopter, truck, or other mission-essential vehicle runs out of fuel in a remote location in a combat zone, one option is to have transport helicopters like CH-53E “Super Stallions” deliver fuel by air.

A Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 Super Stallion conducted the tactical bulk refueling of two Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 UH-1Y “Huey” helicopters in support of a troop insertion at Exercise Burmese Chase at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Sept. 23.

The purposes of bulk refueling are to extend the range of combat operations and time spent operating in an area, and maintain a transport helicopter’s escorts. Because the Super Stallion has a greater fuel capacity than the Huey, a tactical bulk fueling is necessary when there isn’t a base to land and refuel.

Before the Warhorse crew left for the mission, there was a lot of preparation to make sure the helicopter was ready. They worked several hours inspecting the helicopter, and loading it with a tactical bulk fueling delivery system and a forward area refueling equipment kit. The TBFDS has the capacity to carry 2,400 gallons of fuel, and the FARE carries the electrical cables and hoses needed to pass fuel.

After a scenic flight across Southern California, the pilots arrived at the forward area refueling point and the crew got down to business.

Once the Super Stallion touched down onto the barren landscape the crew began rolling out hoses. In about 15 minutes, the crew had the equipment prepared as two Hueys appeared over the horizon. The crew members guided the helicopters down to the refuel point and quickly began filling them up.

Because this mission was designed to mimic real-life combat operations, the crew worked diligently to refuel the aircraft as fast as possible.

Once the Huey’s were full of fuel, they took off. The mission for HMH-465 was complete, and although some of the crew had never done a mission like this before, the training they received beforehand helped make it a success.

“It was good, we had a lot of new guys but they got everything ready to go in 15 minutes.” said Capt. Nathan Robinson, an HMH-465 pilot. “Everybody worked well together.”

Although Yuma is far from current areas of operation, this training prepares Marines for future deployments.

“This is a good location to train because of its austere environment,” said Maj. Lee Cracknell, the squadron’s executive officer. “It’s much like the rugged mountains and deserts of Afghanistan.”

Although the squadron practices this kind of operation about twice a year, the Marines worked hard to train the inexperienced crew members, and in the end the mission was executed safely and successfully.

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3rd Marine Aircraft Wing