Female FARP member – Fuels gas and breaks barriers
By Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee, 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 03, 2018
RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Under complete darkness noises coming from every direction whirling around her, she focuses through the haze of her night vision goggles as she pulls more than 760 feet of heavy refueling hoses from one aircraft to another. Her face is full of sweat and her heart pounds, as a CV-22 Osprey hovers as it prepares to land before her.
Senior Airman Tori Watts, 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution driver and 67th Special Operations Squadron Forward Arming and Refueling Point team member, is the only female member of the Team Mildenhall FARP team.
“I never thought about trying out for the FARP team, but my teammates really encouraged me to push myself to the next level,” Watts said. “It forced me out of my comfort zone, with FARP I broke barriers within myself to do something and be a part of something I never thought I could.”
The FARP is a special team of fuels Airmen who provide a critical capability for wartime and humanitarian missions. They provide a means of "hot" refueling from a tanker aircraft to various types of fixed and rotor-wing receiver aircraft, expanding the window of capabilities for special operations.
The team puts readiness into reality by constantly training to execute the mission anytime, anywhere. The FARP’s team training consists of a FARP training course, getting flight certified and a defensive diving course.
“Watts has always had an incredible work ethic; I had no doubt in her ability to carry the extra weight and responsibilities of joining the FARP team,” said Staff Sgt. Shane Zittle, 100th LRS fuels laboratory NCO-in charge. “I know the team requires a lot, not only mentally, but physically as well.”
Airmen applying for the FARP team go through the FARP challenge. The course requires the members to drag three 100-foot fuel hoses, return to the starting point to pick up a five-gallon canister of water, a 20-pound fire extinguisher and a squeegee, then returning to the 300-foot marker. The challenge demonstrates applicants’ ability to perform various tasks they may encounter during an actual mission. They also go through an interview process to see if they are able to adapt to the mental requirements as well.
Watts has not only exceeded expectations, but also learned how to better understand her team.
“One of the biggest hurdles I had to get over as the only female member on the FARP team was proving myself,” Watts said. “I always felt like I had to do it on my own. Honestly, everyone needs help from the biggest guy on our team to the smallest – FARP is not a one-man team.”
The lessons Watts learned during her career as an Airman have been many, and the lessons she’s been able to teach others are one of the best parts of the job.
“When getting on the jet, some were surprised to see me there, but after we do our mission sometimes they’ll come up to me and tell me how good of a job I did,” Watts said. “I know my hard work can open the door to so many other women having the opportunity they never thought possible or qualified for.”
“No matter what happens at the end of the day, boy or girl, we all help each other to make sure the mission gets done,” Watts said. “The thrill of the job keeps me going. I never know what we’re going to come into when we land. It’s exciting to put all of our training into action.”