MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- After stalling on an empty tank, a humvee begins receiving heavy fire while the convoy pauses in the sands of Iraq. Since the volume of incoming fire makes it hard to bring in a refueling truck, the humvee relies on the support of the Corps’ newest refueling bladder placed on the back of a trailing Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (a 7-ton truck).
For Marines facing this scenario, the refueling bladder could save lives. The Ground Expedient Refueling System is a current project undergoing final testing by the Aberdeen Test Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
“The Ground Expedient Refueling System is a way to refuel vehicles in a fast manner,” said Ed Mahan, the GERS test director at Aberdeen Test Center. “It works by pushing fuel out of the bladder with air pressure rather than pumping it out. The system is also more user-friendly … when supplying different quantities of fuel.”
As a final evaluation of the GERS, the Sweathogs of Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 were the first Marines to try the equipment for the Marine Corps at the Air Station June 4 – 8, according to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Scott Shaw, the Marine Corps Systems Command’s GERS project officer.
“We asked II Marine Expeditionary Force for a unit or squadron to help test the new equipment, and they chose (the Sweathogs) due to their recent return from deployment,” Shaw said. “The squadron has a wide variety of Marines with different military occupational specialties and deployment experiences, which we believe will give us a good user evaluation report.”
Before coming to Fightertown, the GERS system had already undergone several evaluations, according to Mahan.
“We put the Ground Expedient Refueling System up against several tests,” Mahan said. “(At the test center) the system had sand and dust blown against it, the bladders were pounded on, we continuously pumped fuel in and out of it, took the bladders through miles of off-road testing for durability, dropped it from very large heights and basically made sure it would be safe enough to use.”
Despite the tests the GERS had already completed, it was still necessary for the Marines to try it, according to Mahan.
“The Marines will put the equipment through situations based on their missions,” Mahan said. “It’s great to have Marines test the system to see if it’s feasible. Also, it allows us to see if the training and technical manuals that are provided are sufficient.”
During its week at the Air Station, the GERS was tested by Marines from different sections of MWSS-273, according to Sgt. Jeremy Johnson, a motor transportation operator there.
“It’s always good for everyone to get this type of training in because you never know when you may be in the position to do it,” Johnson said. “In the beginning of the week, we started learning about the system in several classes. Then we tested the Ground Expedient Refueling System by creating two fueling stations – using the equipment from the ground and using it from the back of the vehicles.”
“The system is faster and smaller than using a regular refueling truck,” Johnson said. “Also, the fuel bladders are smaller targets and more maneuverable, which would be more useful in a combat zone. The Marine Corps definitely should look into investing in the GERS, because it’ll be helpful for our mission in the long run.”
The GERS is easily handled, meaning it takes fewer Marines to operate. It requires only two to four Marines to load and operate the equipment as opposed to the six to eight Marines required to operate the old refueling system, said Shaw.
Although the GERS will not be replacing any existing fuel systems, units will be tentatively fielded across the Marine Corps after it is fully tested, Shaw said.
“If we get good feedback from the Marines, we’ll ask for a full rate production decision and the Marine Corps will start to field it as an official piece of gear,” Shaw said. “We will be providing the systems to local bases first before heading overseas. Marines can expect to see the GERS in the fiscal year of 2008.”