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Remote Fuel Station Makes Mitch Airlifts Possible

By Spc. Jeremy Ausburn, USA
American Forces Press Service

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, Nov. 25, 1998 – Disaster relief supplies arriving here are getting to the people who need them, thanks in part to soldiers who continually fuel the workhorse transports that have been flying to the hinterlands.

Soldiers from Joint Task Force-Bravo's headquarters and support company have set up a forward refueling point near the small, remote village of Mocoron, close to the Honduran-Nicaraguan border.

"We have Air Force C-27s that fly supplies here almost every day, and a few Honduran helicopters that carry supplies out of here," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackie Whiting-Hilton, a C-27 loadmaster. "In order for us to get the supplies to the people who need them, we need a place where we can refuel."

A C-27 Spartan transport normally can fly the round trip from Soto Cano to Mocoron on a single tank, but a cargo-laden one can't take off with a full tank. The makeshift Mocoron fueling point makes the airlift possible for the C-27s and a variety of smaller aircraft.

Fuel is stored in 500-gallon fuel bladders strapped to cargo pallets and flown to Mocoron by C-27. Air Force pilot Maj. Fred Girbert said the transport crews deliver by combat offload -- that is, they land on the small dirt strip, open up the cargo door and pull forward, letting pallets roll off as they taxi for take off

"Our job is to make sure that the fuel is transferred safely from the blivets [bladders] to the aircraft," said fueling point team member Army Pfc. Ruis Gonzales, a petroleum supply specialist. "The operation is a small one, but an important one. Without a place for aircraft and helicopters to get fuel, it is impossible for supplies to get to places that are far from Soto Cano Air Base

Current missions to the Mocoron area include delivery of food and medical supplies. Joint Task Force-Bravo's traveling medical team is scheduled to visit residents in December.

[Spc. Jeremy Ausburn is assigned to the 49th Public Affairs Detachment (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C., and a member of the U.S. military relief mission in Honduras.]

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe crew of Joint Task Force-Bravo's forward fueling point refuel an Air Force C-27 Spartan in the remote village of Mocoron, Honduras. Cargo-laden transports start at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, with partially filled tanks in order to take off. The fuel point makes Hurricane Mitch relief airlift missions possible to this area. Spc. Jeremy Ausburn, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force loadmaster Staff Sgt. Jackie Whiting-Hilton checks a pallet before it is loaded aboard a C-27 transport. The supplies are headed for Mocoron, Honduras. Cargo-laden transports start at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, with partially filled tanks in order to take off. Joint Task Force-Bravo soldiers set up a fuel point in Mocoron that makes Hurricane Mitch relief airlift missions possible to this area. Spc. Jeremy Ausburn, USA  
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