In the darkness of night, forward area refueling point team members wait for an HC-130J Combat King II to land – marking the start of training.
FARP, a specialty within the petroleum, oils and lubrication career field, trains Airmen to effectively refuel aircraft in remote locations when air-to-air refueling is not possible or when fueling stations are not accessible.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona is one of seven bases which can provide FARP capabilities. Of the entire U.S. Air Force, there are a total of 63 qualified FARP team members – nine for each base.
“We come in with everything we need to deliver fuel from one aircraft to another,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Drake Burch, 355th Logistics Readiness Squadron FARP operator. “So that others have enough fuel to complete their missions and make it back home safe.”
FARP plays a role in the U.S. military’s adaptive basing abilities to deliver airpower lethality more effectively and efficiently anywhere in the world by being able to provide a mobile refueling point anywhere an aircraft can land.
“With the ability to set up a refueling site with both minimal equipment and personnel, we are able to provide versatility while leaving a low footprint” Burch said.
To maintain readiness in adverse conditions, FARP training can take place anytime, day or night, and consists of members wearing roughly 60 pounds of gear, to include: a rifle, vest, magazines, night vision goggles, a helmet and survival gear, while performing refueling tasks to simulate encounters they may face downrange.
“We practice how we play,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Lara, 355th LRS FARP operator. “It helps us prepare for real-world situations. Downrange we could have scenarios where we have to land, refuel and leave in under an hour.”
Training can be strenuous and demanding. To even qualify for FARP, Airmen must pass Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape school and go through an altitude chamber. In training situations, which can sometimes take place in pitch black darkness, FARP members must show they can refuel aircraft even in the most austere environments. Training in less-than-ideal conditions allow Airmen to hone their skills which will, in turn, allow them to support the mission in any situation.
“It’s demanding – both physically and mentally. On the job, exhaustion can easily creep up on you and thoughts of wanting to quit start to cross your mind, but you don’t quit,” Lara said. “In a real-world situation you can’t just stop, you have to keep going to complete the mission.”