Saturday, July 31, 2004
After dropping the last of the commo equipment packed in large, heavy, green, hard plastic shipping containers at forward operating base Calypso, and picking up three more big orange bags full of mail from the troops at the FOB, Redbeard77 and her crew, despite their exhaustion, made an approach into Camelot for their second time that day. They ended their approach at a hover about ten feet above the inverted ‘Y’ and then slid into hot gas pad one for refueling.
Two Soldiers wearing red helmets and dark goggles and heavy gloves ran out to the aircraft meeting Jaf at the helicopter’s refuel station just aft of the cabin door on the right side of the Chinook. The first Soldier grabbed a large refueling nozzle connected to a long black hose that ran to a pump that pumped fuel from a 40,000 gallon tank of JP-8. Before connecting the refueling nozzle to the receptacle at the refuel station, the first Soldier wearing the red helmet and dark goggles and heavy gloves, the taller of the two, plugged the business end of a grounding cable, the other end of which was connected to a brass grounding rod driven three-feet into the earth, into the aircraft to prevent static electricity from discharging during the refuel process. A spark from static electricity during the refuel process could be deadly. The taller Soldier then waited for a thumbs up from Jaf who after finishing a check of the aircraft’s refueling system gave the tall one a thumbs up. The tall one slammed a lever on the left side of the refueling nozzle forward and JP-8 started flowing through the long black hose into the helicopter’s fuel tanks. The shorter of the two Soldiers wearing the red helmet and dark goggles and heavy gloves stood nearby with a 50lb fire extinguisher at the ready just in case the grounding cable running from the aircraft and connected to the grounding rod failed to do its job. In all his nine years of refueling aircraft, the short one has never had to use the 50lb fire extinguisher. This day would prove to be no different.
The pilot-in-command asked each of the crewdogs if they were OK with continuing on with the mission that was going to take them past their allotted eight hours of flight. Each member of the crew, knowing that the Soldiers on guard at the OPs perched atop a ridgeline at some 9,000 feet AGL were depending on them, responded that they were good to go. The pilot-in-command informed Camelot control that they would proceed with their earlier request to sling load the two pallets of food and water up to the OPs, but then had to high tail it back to home base. Camelot thanked them profusely as there really was no other way to get the much needed supplies up to the guys at OP Arthur and OP Galahad.
When they taxied into their assigned parking spot back at steel beach an hour and forty-minutes later, Jaf felt tired, very tired. Kevin helped load the six big orange mail bags onto a humvee to be taken to the post office for mailing while Jaffy started conducting the required post-flight inspections. Just before the driver of the humvee got behind the wheel, Kevin asked him why it was that the post office never sent any mail out to the troops at the FOBs. The mail handler now sitting behind the wheel of his humvee full of big oragne bags of mail explained that the Soldiers frequently rotate in and out of the FOBs making it virtually impossible to get their mail to them, so all the letters and packages are held at the base camp until the troops rotate back through there. Kevin felt a little guilty at having mail and hot showers everyday. The mail clerk drove off and Jaf yelled at his crewchief to stop lollygagging and help “put her to bed.” They had logged 8.9 flight hours, arriving four hours prior to take-off to get her ready and needing another three-hours now to put her to bed, it had been a long day.
Keep those cards, letters and care packages going to the soldiers in "The Stan", they need them, as you can see. Visit Soldiers' Angels for more information.