Fort Campbell, KY – When you hear the words fat cow, chances are the first thing that comes to mind does not involve a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. That is unless you’re a part of a combat aviation brigade in the Army, and even then, the term can feel like a legend of old that everyone talks about but never actually experiences.
This week fuelers and armament Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, and CH-47 crews from Varsity Company, 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) would change that.
Fat Cow refers to the field-expedited refueling process where a CH-47, the largest helicopter in the Army, provides fuel for other helicopters while operating behind enemy lines.
This process involves loading two Extended Range Fuel Systems in the back of a CH-47 helicopter and flying to a predetermined location to provide refueling support.
“Inside, the ERFS can fit up to 800 gallons of fuel each,” said Spc. Gavin Greenhill, a CH-47 helicopter maintainer/repairer with Varsity Company. “With two of those in the back of a chinook, we can refuel as many aircraft as needed.”
Combining a Fat Cow mission with a FARP improves the efficiency of refueling and rearming attack helicopters.
“Because setup for the Fat Cow is so quick, it allows us to get helicopters back in the fight even faster,” said 1st Lt. Caneel Cooper, Executive Officer for 2-17 CAV.
Bringing the two groups together provided several opportunities to cross-train.
“Chinook crewmembers are expected to set this up by themselves in less than 20 minutes,” Cooper said. “Having them here provided the opportunity for our fuelers to learn how to be more efficient in their setup.”
The fuelers from 2-17 CAV were able to impart some knowledge of their own to the chinook soldiers.
“Training is everything,” said Sgt. Gavin Goodly, a CH-47 helicopter maintainer/repairer with Varsity Company. “These guys [the fuelers] taught us about emergency procedures and offered up some tricks of the trade to make us better equipped to handle this job in almost any situation.”
As the fuel tanks emptied and the day came to a close, the Soldiers reflected on their shared experiences.
“This was the first time being a part of a Fat Cow mission for myself and the rest of my soldiers,” Cooper said. “When I look back on this, I will remember the teamwork it took between the chinook and apache units. This teamwork is what makes 101 CAB such a great, cohesive unit.”
“The first training we did for this mission, the fuelers were rolling out the hoses and fueling the vehicles,” Goodly said. “It was nice to see the progression for us to be able to do this today mostly on our own.”
“Air Assault missions are designed to get us behind enemy lines,” Greenhill said. “If a fuel truck can’t reach the FARP, Fat Cows allow us to set up and jump the FARP as needed while pushing further into enemy territory and closer to our target.”