MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Two air wing units joined forces Sept. 11 at CP Bull in California to conduct a Forward Air Refueling Point operation.
Marine Wing Support Squadron-371 airfield operations and fuels sections provided logistic support for Marine Light Attack Squadron-267 from Camp Pendleton, Calif. to help the helicopter unit complete their Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation.
The fuels section took more than 16,000 gallons of jet fuel out to the desert airfield to refuel UH-1 Huey, AH-1 Cobra and CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters conducting the MCCRE operation.
"The MCCRE tests how we operate, how our readiness is maintained and how many rounds we can fire," said Gunnery Sgt. Martin Pack, quality assurance staff non-commissioned officer in charge.
The fuelers from MWSS-371 refilled the fuel tanks of the light attack aircraft while they were shut down, and performed hot fuels refueling while the helicopter rotors are still turning on the CH-46 cargo and assault "helos."
The refueling operation for MWSS-371 was unique in that they were using their new M4900 Air Refueling Capable tankers for the first time in an actual field environment, according to Staff Sgt. Eleno Villegas, fuels motor transport chief.
"To my knowledge, we're the first ones in the Marine Corps to actually put it to use in the field," Villegas said.
The new vehicle makes the refuelers' job easier because it has automatic feeding reels and removable, interchangable nozzles for different aircraft fuel couplings, Villegas said.
Using the new vehicle as their primary refueling truck helped the Marines from MWSS-371 provide quick, effective service for the pilots of HMLA-267.
"The ARC has performed great," said Sgt. Nicholas Rubio, fuels section team leader. "It pumps fast and efficient."
Rubio said the tanker can hold 5,000 gallons of jet fuel, but for safety reasons it is never filled more than 4,500 gallons. The high capacity of the refueler truck is necessary for operations such as the MCCRE, since the Hueys and Cobras each hold more than 100 gallons and the Sea Knights can hold 500 gallons.
The flight and refueling operations kept the ground crews on their toes, which was fine by them.
"They're doing an excellent job out here," Villegas said. "They're excited about the new vehicle. We're ready to roll."
The help from the wing support squadron meant that the helicopter squadron could concentrate on scoring high marks in their combat readiness testing.
"We're just trying to get all our rounds down range," said Staff Sgt. D.M. Field, HMLA-267 ordnance section. "It's a crawl before you can run situation. Only one or two other Marines here have performed refueling and rearming in this kind of environment, so it's good training."
Field said that the Marines are very capable in their duties, but are typically deployed to Naval Air Station El Centro, Calif. or Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Despite the new experience, the Marines were confident of their abilities and the potential for success on the MCCRE.
"Heck yeah, we're always combat ready," said Cpl. John Foster, HMLA-267aviation ordnanceman.
The squadron left Yuma for Camp Pendleton
Saturday a bit more sunburned, yet ready for deployment to anywhere the Corps may require of them. The Sandsharks of MWSS-371 also came away with confidence in their new ARC refueler, ready to support any squadron the calls on them.