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From left, 2-2 Black Hawk crew member Spc. Dennis Sharek waits while fuelers Joe Bell and Spc. Nicole Mabury pump gas and ground the helicopter to prevent static electricity discharges.
From left, 2-2 Black Hawk crew member Spc. Dennis Sharek waits while fuelers Joe Bell and Spc. Nicole Mabury pump gas and ground the helicopter to prevent static electricity discharges. (Seth Robson / S&S)
From left, 2-2 Black Hawk crew member Spc. Dennis Sharek waits while fuelers Joe Bell and Spc. Nicole Mabury pump gas and ground the helicopter to prevent static electricity discharges.
From left, 2-2 Black Hawk crew member Spc. Dennis Sharek waits while fuelers Joe Bell and Spc. Nicole Mabury pump gas and ground the helicopter to prevent static electricity discharges. (Seth Robson / S&S)
A Black Hawk lands at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point near Rodriguez Range on Thursday.
A Black Hawk lands at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point near Rodriguez Range on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
A Black Hawk takes off while 2-2 fuelers take cover.
A Black Hawk takes off while 2-2 fuelers take cover. (Seth Robson / S&S)
From left: 2nd Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment fuelers Pvt. Vladimir Garcia, 23, of Miami, Fla., Pfc. Dana Wilson, 19, of Prentiss, Miss., Spc. Joe Bell, 25, of Lake Ariel, Pa., Pvt. Ralph Lopez, 30, of Chicago, Ill., Spc. Nicole Mabury, 24, of Baltimore, Md., Pfc. Brandy Lawrence, 20, of Great Falls, Mont., brave the mud at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point near Rodriguez Range on Thursday.
From left: 2nd Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment fuelers Pvt. Vladimir Garcia, 23, of Miami, Fla., Pfc. Dana Wilson, 19, of Prentiss, Miss., Spc. Joe Bell, 25, of Lake Ariel, Pa., Pvt. Ralph Lopez, 30, of Chicago, Ill., Spc. Nicole Mabury, 24, of Baltimore, Md., Pfc. Brandy Lawrence, 20, of Great Falls, Mont., brave the mud at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point near Rodriguez Range on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
2-2 Blackhawk crew member Spc. Dennis Sharek, left, waits while fueler Spc. Joe Bell pumps gas.
2-2 Blackhawk crew member Spc. Dennis Sharek, left, waits while fueler Spc. Joe Bell pumps gas. (Seth Robson / S&S)

RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment got their first taste of training beside other units from the newly formed Multi-Functional Aviation Brigade last week.

The soldiers will stay here until July 24, qualifying gunners to fire from Black Hawk helicopters, 2-2 commander Lt. Col. Bob Quackenbush said Thursday. The unit also is conducting live-fire convoy training and running M-9 pistol, Mark-19 grenade launcher and M-249 and M-16 rifle ranges, he added.

It is the unit’s first trip to the range since it joined the brigade in June, Quackenbush said.

Before the new brigade, called an MFAB, was formed, the 2-2 went to the range on its own.

But, for this training, the soldiers worked beside Apache helicopters from 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment and 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment; Black Hawks and Chinook helicopters from 2nd Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment; and air traffic controllers from the 164th Air Traffic Group, Quackenbush said.

Six battalions now are in the brigade, he said. “With all of us coming up here to train, it is more crowded. There’s more helicopters up here than there have been in the past.”

About 60 door gunners are training this week with 15 to 20 Apache crews. All the units shared a pair of Forward Arming and Refueling Points, he said.

“There is more synergy with the MFAB,” Quackenbush said.

On Thursday, 2-2 soldiers manned one of the refueling points, which consisted of a pair of fuel tankers, a few Humvees and some tents next to a muddy air strip among rice paddies, in a valley about 12 miles from the demilitarized zone.

Thick fog, which almost grounded the aircraft, meant the fuelers could hear the helicopters coming long before they saw them. When the Black Hawk approached, the fuelers sprang into action, manning hoses connected to the tankers and metal stakes attached to wires.

One fueler, Spc. Joe Bell, 25, of Lake Ariel, Pa., said the stakes were driven three feet into the ground, then attached to the helicopters with the wires to ground the machines and prevent static electricity discharges that might ignite fuel.

Working within the brigade means the fuelers, who previously worked just with Black Hawks, now handle Apaches and Chinooks, he said.

“The Apaches are complicated. They have a control box and aft and forward tanks,” he explained.

Life at the refueling point has not been a picnic so far, the fuelers said.

“There are flies and mosquitoes,” said Pvt. Vladimir Garcia, 23, of Miami, who enjoys the fresh wind from the helicopters when they arrive.

“And we have to pull guard duty for two hours each night. That’s hard when you have been working all day,” said Pfc. Brandy Lawrence, 20, of Great Falls, Mont.

For Spc. Nicole Mabury, 24, working at the fueling and arming point carries a sense of déjà vu. The Baltimore, Md., native used to work at an All Star Express service station in Cumberland, Md., she said.

“The civilian station was safer and the customers pumped their own gas,” she said.

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