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A Marine Attack Squadron 214 AV-8B Harrier receives fuel July 29, 2009, during a rapid refueling test at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. The squadron also tested its rapid refueling abilities at a forward refuel point with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 at Camp Bastion in the Helmand Province Aug. 24, 2009. Both squadrons are based in Yuma, Ariz.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Gregory Aalto

Yuma's 214, 371 squadrons gas-and-go in Afghanistan

27 Aug 2009 | Lance Cpl. Gregory Aalto

The two Yuma units currently deployed to Afghanistan teamed up here Monday to test their speedy NASCAR-style aircraft refueling capabilities.

Yuma’s Marine Attack Squadron 214 landed two Harriers to the camp’s expeditionary air field, where a veritable pit crew from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 waited with fuel.

With ongoing operations throughout Afghanistan’s Helmand Province despite the successful government elections Aug. 20, the seconds saved getting air support back to the fight can translate into Marines’ lives.

Shortly before the arrival of the Harriers, a group of maintainers from the “Black Sheep” squadron flew here from Kandahar Airfield, where VMA-214 is based.

After rushing to the refueling area, the maintainers began a thorough cleanup of the taxiway. To help complete the cleanup, British Royal Air Force’s 2 Mechanical Transport, from Wittering, England, used its own assets to help clear the taxiway of all foreign objects and debris.

With the runway cleaned, the jets were cleared to land. Once the jets landed, Black Sheep plane captains ushered the Harriers to an MWSS-371 forward aircraft refueling position.

“Normally, a jet will take in approximately 1,000 to 1,500 (gallons) of fuel at a given time,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Kussatz, MWSS-371 fuels officer.

After the pit stop, Marines also added water to cool the Harriers’ turbine and then sent them back to Kandahar.

If needed, the unit could have another station to load or remove ordnance as well, said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Pearcey, VMA-214 ordnance chief.

This mission, as well as other similar tests held during the deployment, proved that more rapid refuels can be planned for the future, said Maj. James Bardo, VMA-214 maintenance officer.

The squadron tested rapid refueling at the Kandahar Airfield in July, but the Camp Bastion success was done on an expeditionary airfield.

The unit trained specifically for rapid ground refueling March 23-25 at a strategic expeditionary landing field at the Marine Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., which many deploying units use due to the similarity of its terrain with Afghanistan’s.

“It was good to do what we had trained to do,” said Cpl. Robert Moore, VMA-214 seat mechanic. “The training became reality.”

Both Yuma squadrons fall under the operational control of Marine Aircraft Group 40 within Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan.

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