Air Force Special Operations support extends to USMC units

  • Published
  • By Capt. Nathan Hoevelkamp
  • 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron
Airmen from the 353rd Special Operations Group are providing support for relief operations in Japan in a variety of ways. For one communications specialist from the group, that means being one of only three Airman forward deployed with a team of U.S. Marines.

Senior Airman Adam Colby, a special operations tactical communications specialist from the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, is currently providing communications support for more than 60 Marines manning a Forward Area Refueling Point, or FARP, here. Airman Colby is one of more than 80 highly-trained communications specialist with the 353rd SOSS capable of providing a full spectrum of tactical communications support in some of the harshest and austere environments.

The FARP site utilizes a Helicopter Expedient Refueling System, or HERS, which consists of four refuelable blivets holding a total of 12,000 gallons of aviation fuel and a pump to transfer fuel to helicopters. With the HERS site operational, MC-130 crews from the 353rd SOG fly round-the-clock missions to transfer fuel into the HERS to keep it fueled to support humanitarian operations. Most of the units passing through the FARP are heading north to support operations in the Iwate and Myagi Prefectures which received the most severe damage from the earthquake and tsunami.

When the Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force deployed here from Okinawa, Airmen Colby volunteered to provide the support the team would need at the FARP.

By managing a package of deployable communications equipment known as a Special Operations Forces High-speed Agile Reachback Kit, or SHARK, Airman Colby is the FARP's only way of communicating with agencies away from the airfield here. The SHARK is a tactical communications kit capable of providing multiple security level voice, video and data regardless of IP input method -- commercial internet, commercial or military SATCOM.

"Airman Colby has been a great asset and is doing a great job of keeping us connected," said Lt. Col. Greg Feroldi, the air boss at the FARP here. "Without him I would not be able to push the information out to those who need it."

The support provided by Airman Colby has also been noted by expeditionary force's deputy commanding general. Maj. Gen. Mark Brilakis personally thanked the communications specialist March 19 for the valuable service he volunteered to provide.

Even with the grueling schedule of being the only person within his specialty at the austere FARP, Airman Colby looks forward to everyday he spends with the Marines here.

"There is no other place I would rather be right now," he said. "I just want to help people."