Military News

Monday, December 18, 2017

Face of Defense: Alaska Fuel Specialist Keeps Aircraft Flying



By Army Sgt. David Bedard, 134th Public Affairs Detachment

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska, Dec. 18, 2017 — Alaska Army National Guard Sgt. Cody Foster’s time at Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was his first trip to anywhere outside of Alaska.

To fight the unfamiliar stifling heat and humidity, the Kenai native did what the drill sergeants told him to do: he drank lots of water.

Because he succeeded at Fort Jackson, and later during advanced individual training at Fort Lee, Virginia, the petroleum supply specialist with Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, said he learned the value of following instructions in the Army.

When it comes to safely pumping fuel into 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, following instructions to the letter is critical to the job, Foster said.

Foster dispenses the fuel from an eight-wheel-drive Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck tanker parked close to the flight line at Bryant Army Airfield here.

Training to Fight

During the unit's drill this month, Foster partnered with fellow petroleum supply specialist Spc. Jesse Gray to top off a UH-60 following a sortie. The duo scrambled to the cab of their HEMTT fueler and drove a few hundred yards to the helicopter.

The soldiers’ uniforms are different than their ground unit counterparts. They wear a special fire-retardant jacket for obvious reasons; they don fuel-proof gloves to ensure any fuel spilled on them in subzero weather doesn't instantly cover their hands with frostbite. And eye and hearing protection are always a must.

For a "cold" refuel, the Black Hawk is tied down and has ground wires staked into grounding points. Foster and Gray also grounded the HEMTT, to ensure a spark wouldn't ignite the volatile JP-8 fuel onboard.

"Any and all static that comes from the hose, the line and the aircraft all goes straight to ground and stops us from having a [mishap]," Foster said.

Foster and Gray worked with the deliberate speed and precise attention to detail of a NASCAR pit crew.

Foster paid out the refueling hose from a spool on the back of the HEMTT before hooking up to the idle UH-60. Gray controlled a valve at the truck end, giving him the ability to cut fuel flow if he identified an emerging hazard.

The operation was quick, limited in speed primarily by the time it takes to fill the fuel tanks of the helicopter. Rapid as it is, refueling is merely the culmination of Foster's efforts.

Testing, Safety

Before he can fill up a whirlybird and send it back into action, Foster has to get the fuel. He said he requisitions the JP-8 from the Air Force fuel farm on the base. The fuel is then stored in large tanks operated locally by the battalion.

Before the fuel is certified for use, Foster tests it for contaminants and water content.

"Every time we receive fuel, we need to do a sample on each tank to make sure the fuel we have is good," he said. "It's never come up bad, but it's just an extra precaution."

As layered and nuanced as refueling helicopters on an active airfield is, Foster is ready to do the same mission in austere conditions in a combat zone.

Foster's company is equipped and trained to establish an ad-hoc logistics operation, called a forward arming and refueling point, on an improvised airfield.

Without Bryant Air Field's hardstand helicopter parking spots with their pre-positioned tie-down and grounding points, Foster said he relies on the equipment in his tanker to ground the helicopter in the field.

Besides eating field rations, skipping a few showers and living out of a duffel bag, the job changes little in a field environment, Foster said. Even during a "hot" refuel -- when the helicopter is running and often flies away after topping off -- the fundamentals of grounding the aircraft and maintaining safety stay the same, Foster said.

Role Model

Army Sgt. Zachary Adams, a squad leader in Echo Company, said Foster serves as a good role model for other soldiers in the unit. Adams said Foster takes pride in his work and is known for his reliability and accountability to the standards of the job.

"He really takes the time to ensure he and other soldiers take the time to do the job safely," Adams said.

Foster said he relishes staying busy.

"My favorite part of this job is we always have a mission," he said. "Those birds need to fly. Pilots always need flight time.
"There's always something to do here," Foster continued. "It requires the same amount of brainwork as it does physical activity. It's never boring."

National Guard Bureau Personnel Authorized to Wear New Organizational Badge



By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Erich B. Smith National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 18, 2017 — Those assigned to the National Guard Bureau are now authorized to wear a new organizational badge that highlights the history of the NGB, officials announced recently.

"It's an emblem to build spirit and reinforce organizational identification," said Army Lt. Col. Jeff Larrabee, chief historian with the NGB and a principal adviser during the development of the National Guard Bureau Organizational Badge. "Because we are complicated and spread out across the ground, people don't always understand that we are one organization."

The badge was officially unveiled by Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, during celebrations at the Pentagon of the National Guard's 381st birthday, Dec. 13. Designed to be worn on the dress uniform, the badge is authorized for wear only while assigned to the NGB, irrespective of the individual's duty location.

"The badge is not going to be permanently awarded," Larrabee said. "As a temporary badge, it is equivalent to a joint command badge or an Air Force temporary duty badge."

A lapel version of the badge will also be available for wear on civilian clothing.

Badge Design

The badge features the eagle insignia from the NGB seal overlaid on two blue stars representing the Army and Air National Guard. The year 1636 is inscribed on the top of the badge, referring to the year the Guard was established. These features are encircled by 54 chain links representing each state, territory and the District of Columbia that make up the Guard.

The badge design, Larrabee said, recognizes the NGB's "long history and significant mission" and acknowledges the organization's role as a "headquarters-like element."

"We don't have any war streamers or participate in campaigns," said Larrabee, referring to the NGB. "But, [the bureau] has played an important role in mobilizing or preparing the Guard for its wartime missions, which was why the bureau was established."

The badge itself has a long history and was first proposed close to 70 years ago.

"The bureau tried to get a badge authorized in 1949, after the Air Force was created as a separate service [in 1947]," Larrabee said.

That post-World War II reorganization created separate Army and Air divisions within the NGB and established it as a bureau of the Army and an agency of the Air Force overseen by the chief of the NGB.

"We were a joint organization that tried to reflect that joint aspect," said Larrabee, of the reasons for the proposed 1949 badge. "It was not approved at that time, and it looked very similar to the Army Staff Identification Badge."

Today, the bureau operates as a joint activity of the Defense Department, a change that came in 2008 and saw the chief of the NGB elevated to a four-star general and given additional authority. With the expanded role of the NGB and its chief, Larrabee said the time was right to create a new badge that reflects the NGB's history.

That also meant looking to the past for the design, he said, adding that parts of the new badge come directly from the proposed 1949 design.

"So we are perpetuating a design element that was thought of more than 60 years ago," Larabee said. "We don't dismiss the past, even with something like this."

He stressed that the badge also carries on the same intent as the 1949 design to reinforce unit integrity among personnel assigned to the NGB.
"The purpose of a badge, like all heraldry, is to create a sense of organizational identity and to foster esprit de corps and pride in the organization," Larabee said.