MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Forward Arming and Refueling Points exist to extend the already long arm of Marine Corps aviators.
The sites are portable “mini air stations” that set up wherever and whenever pilots need to refuel or rearm.
FARP Marines from throughout the United States are participating in Exercise Desert Talon, a two-week exercise designed to train Marines who are going to Iraq later this year. The Marines are brushing up on the skills required to set up these sites while learning a few new tricks as well.
Aviators flying aircraft ranging from AV-8B Harriers to most Marine Corps helicopters can refuel at FARPs, said 1st Lt. Scott M. Clendaniel, FARP team commander, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374.
“The squadron will say they need a FARP at a certain grid coordinate,” the Fairfax, Va., native said. “We’ll plan a convoy and set up a site. We’re prepared to go wherever they need us.”
Usually, the sites are set up so aircraft can land, rearm, refuel, and get back into the action as soon as possible, Clendaniel explained.
To accomplish this mission a FARP needs Marines from a variety of Military Occupational Specialties, especially since the site has to not only sustain itself, but also the aircraft it supports, he added.
Motor transport Marines bring the FARP Marines and equipment to the predetermined location.
Military policemen are used as a security force for the other Marines during the convoy to and from the site, and as the site is in operation.
Cpl. Shane Proulx, aircraft recovery specialist, MWSS-374, says his job is the groundwork for the FARP once the Marines arrive at the site.
“We work at setting up the airstrip,” he explained. “We lay the matting, set up the lights, and assist the aircraft with landings and takeoffs. We are the guys that oversee the repairs of the runway while it is in operation.”
Proulx added that the recovery specialists also have capabilities to perform a high power turn up, or diagnostic check, on Harriers when they come in for fuel.
After the airstrip is set up, bulk fuel specialists and ordnance technicians go to work replenishing the aircraft while they are on the ground.
When all this is taking place, a group of Marines stand by carefully watching the whole operation and ensuring its safety.
“We are there in case there is an aircraft mishap,” said Cpl. Joseph J. Deangelo, aircraft firefighting and rescue specialist, MWSS-374. “We are trained to save the pilots and the aircraft.”
Once all of these sections are set up, the FARP Marines are capable of operating the FARP 24 hours-a-day, Clendaniel said. “The pilots just need to let us know when they’re coming in.”
Creating these sites is a big task to train for because there are “people from different areas coming together and they have to work as a team,” noted the 25-year old.
The Marines not only have to work together, but they also have to learn from each other because of the impending deployment to Iraq, revealed Proulx.
“Every Marine needs to know how to do everyone else’s job,” he said. “In case one (Marine) goes down, we can still do the job.”
Clendaniel explained the Marines “won’t know exactly how to do each job” from their time here, but the familiarization they will get with each other will pay off in the long run.
“Marines are great amateurs,” he said. “They can watch someone doing something and can just jump in and help get that job done.”
On top of getting to know each other and their roles in the FARP, the Marines are receiving some additional training that will help them while in Iraq, said Capt. Greg Poland, armor instructor, Ground Combat Department, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1.
“We are teaching them the basic techniques to get a convoy from point ‘A’ to point ‘B,’” he stated.
This training package includes convoy operations, reactions to snipers while in a convoy, vehicle recovery, Iraqi customs, and crew-served weapons handling and tactics.
To give these classes, MAWTS-1 brought in a group of infantry Marines from 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division from Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
All of the Marine instructors here will use their own experiences in Iraq to help train the Marines for what they could encounter while doing their jobs in Iraq, said Sgt. Anthony Riddle, one of the instructors.
“We’ll give them guidance and good training, but it’s harder to teach them because of the different mindset,” he said. “They’re trying to win the hearts and minds (of the Iraqi’s).”
According to Proulx, who spent time in Afghanistan last year, the Marines are in good hands with the instructors.
“They are doing an awesome job here,” he said. “When the Marines get (to Iraq) they’ll start relying on the training, and input what they learn here into what they do there.”