MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Marines from 2nd and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wings teamed up with the help of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, to set up a Forward Arming and Refueling Point to test their skills in the Arizona desert during Desert Talon.
FARPs are temporary landing zones for aircraft located closer to areas of operation to provide fuel and ammunition.
Without the support of mobile refueling points, aircraft would not have the capability to be efficient in battle, said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew E. Terry, MAWTS-1 Marine Mobile Team instructor. This gives all the units a chance to work together like they will in Iraq.
The FARP serves like a mobile gas station, said Staff Sgt. Angel Alvarez, Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 aviation ordinance supervisor. Aircraft can stop to rearm and for maintenance problems.
“Instead of having to go all the way back to the main base, pilots can get what they need and get back in the action,” said Cpl. Mathew L. McMurtry, HMLA-367 aviation ordinance team leader.
Weather technicians, motor transportation operators, aviation ordinance technicians and aircraft rescue fire fighters are some of the Marines that make the FARP operate, said Terry.
These Marines must work together to be wherever they are needed so aircraft can land, rearm, refuel and get back into the action as soon as possible, Terry said.
Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 weather technician Sgt. Eugene Pierson and MWSS-373 weather technician Cpl. Edgar G. Luna set up a weather sensor system to enable them to collect weather data up to 250 miles from the station.
“Heat and wind are the main weather elements that affect operations,” said Luna. “The desert environment impacts personnel and equipment maintenance. We record weather observations and relay the information to the air control tower and keep units updated on forecasts, advisories and warnings.”
“My role as the fuel tank operator is probably one of the more dangerous jobs in the FARP,” said Sgt. Rusty R. Mihm, MWSS-373 mobile refuel operator. “The enemy knows that without fuel the aircraft can’t go anywhere. That makes fuel tankers prime targets for the enemy.”
Accidents and emergencies will arise in all combat environments. The aircraft rescue and fire fighting units are always on standby incase an incident occurs.
ARFF provides fire suppression and rescue support and is equipped to help aid when needed, said Sgt. Guillermo Perez, MWSS-373 crew leader. Corpsmen also accompany the unit for medical emergencies.
The FARP is a round-the-clock operation, Terry said. War doesn’t sleep. The Marines train at night to learn how to set up tactical landing zones and perform the same tasks they do during the day.
“All the Marines that are a part of the FARP play important roles,” said Terry. “This training teaches them the basics they will need to know about FARP and it helps them work and learn from each other, so when they are in Iraq, they can be successful on the ground to support the aviation.”