By Senior Airman J.G. Buzanowski, USAF
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2006 – A CH-47 Chinook helicopter can fly with one engine. It can fly without its advanced flight-control system. But it doesn't get off the ground without fuel. That's why petroleum supply specialists like Army Cpl. Charlette Henager are here with a team of three Chinooks and their crews. The helicopter aircrews are delivering rebuilding supplies to the northern part of Pakistan, which was devastated by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake a year ago.
Henager, a Fremont County, Colo., native, volunteered to come on this mission, dubbed Operation Promise Keeping. She and her fellow petroleum supply soldiers have several responsibilities, from refueling the helicopters to testing jet fuel bought from local suppliers.
"We test the fuel thoroughly to make sure it's safe," Henager said. "We test it to make sure it doesn't have water or debris in it." Several servicemembers in Pakistan for Operation Promise Keeping were here in 2005 for Operation Lifeline, the multinational response to bring food, medical aid and relief supplies to the area. Henager said it was important for her and her fellow fueling specialists to return to Pakistan.
"When we were first deployed last year, it was right after the earthquake," she said. "We'd top off every single aircraft as soon as they would get back to make sure they were ready for their next mission." Above all others, the flight crews for the CH-47s are most appreciative of soldiers like Henager.
"When we have them with us, it means we can fuel up in less than five minutes to get back on with the mission," said Lt. Col. Walter Bradly, a Chinook pilot and the company commander. "These guys make sure we're flying safe, and we know we can trust them to do the job right. By having them with us here, it means at least one more trip out every day with the time they save us, and that means more supplies are getting to the people who need them."
This second trip to Pakistan for Henager and her crew of four is especially rewarding. They've "come full circle," she said.
"It's great because we get to see the impact that we're having," Henager said. "We see what we're supporting and every time a Chinook takes off with a load of supplies, we know we had a hand in that. We know they wouldn't be flying if it weren't for us."
(Air Force Senior Airman J.G. Buzanowski is assigned to Combined Joint Task Force 76 public affairs.)