RAF MILDENHALL, Enlgand --
They go out, mostly at night, for a single purpose and with a high priority: ensuring aircraft have the most essential item they require to complete their mission, fuel.
Forward Area Refueling Point teams fly into austere locations to refuel aircraft. They fall under the banner of the petroleum, oils and lubrication career field.
“Without FARP, aircraft that are unable to refuel in the air would have to return to the nearest forward operating base to refuel before getting back in the fight,” said Staff Sgt. Jessica Navarro, 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron, FARP program manager. “However, with FARP, aircraft are able to move just outside the combat area to refuel which allows them to return to the mission more swiftly.”
Airmen who are part of the FARP team favor versatililty and flexiblity when it comes to their job.
“We can refuel anything that needs jet fuel,” said Senior Airman Cory Irvine, 100th LRS, FARP operator. “We’ve done fighters, tiltrotors, rotary aircraft, as well as other aircraft from different branches.”
The FARP team helps keep the Air Force agile and ready to respond to wherever the mission requires.
“If a C-130 can land, we can go and do our job,” Irvine said. “We land, set up, and provide on-site refueling. After we’re finished, we leave and it’s like we were never there.”
RAF Mildenhall is one of only a few bases which employ a FARP team.
“We are a very select group, there are less than 100 of us across the entire Air Force,” Irvine said. “To join the team a member must be stationed at a base with a FARP team, have the appropriate retainability, complete a tryout and attend additional specialty training.”
The tryouts are both physically and mentally challenging.
“While the tryout is physically straining, I think it’s more of a mental challenge,” Irvine said. “It’s all about how much you want it, the physical portion will take around 20 minutes. You just have to get your head in the game for that time.”
The tryouts are designed to be difficult, because downrange there is no quitting.
“Out in the field, it’s just the team and the personnel on the aircraft, who are relying on the team to get everything done,” Irvine said. “It’s a really good feeling once you get it done. You know that you had an immediate impact on the mission.”
Like other challenging activities, the hardships of the job help bring the team closer together.
“There is a lot of camaraderie on the team, we’re like a family,” Navarro said. “We have each others backs, because we know we are all in it together.”