Saturday, November 27, 2021

Fuel Handler of the Air Cav

Recently, Donald Hall posted this photo on Facebook and asked about the painting's origin, sensing a story similar to what I had shared about the painting I'd gifted to the late General Colin Powell. During Desert Storm, Donald Hall and I met when we'd billeted together in King Khalid Military City, Saudi Arabia.

My painting hanging in the Pentagon. Photo by Donald Hall.

The genesis to this painting, Fuel Handler of the Air Cav, goes back to my first tour of active duty. I was an attack helicopter pilot with the 7/17 Air Cavalry and we'd been deployed for desert training in the Imperial Valley of California, somewhere between Slab City (outside the Salton Sea) and the Chocolate Mountains. Late the first night, during a briefing in the squadron's TOC (Tactical Operations Center) we heard the commotion of a parade of big trucks roaring out of the darkness. A few minutes later, a female captain of the Transportation Corps strode into the tent. She was dressed in combat garb, covered head-to-toe in dust, and goggles had left a raccoon mask on her face. She reported that our logistical support had arrived--thousands of gallons of aviation gas and diesel plus tons and tons of ammo, mostly rockets. For some reason, our S-3 (the operations officer) was very dismissive of her even though at the time, I thought she had the hardest job of any one of us there. The moment stuck with me.

Fast forward eight years and I was recalled from the Individual Ready Reserve and sent overseas as a soldier-artist for Operation Desert Storm. I wandered about the battle area, mindful of my instructions--don't get yourself injured or killed--which I followed to the letter. What impressed me about the US military was that our combat forces were like rampaging titans but even they needed sustenance. Napoleon once said that an army marches on its stomach and to that you have to add, without gas, you ain't getting anywhere. So out in this desolate wilderness I found this female Specialist, doing her job, making sure our thirsty flying beasts got plenty to drink. When I was sorting through ideas of what images to paint, I thought back to that female captain also doing her job, and so this work is an homage to both women soldiers.


Charlotte Hinger said...

Loved this post, Mario.

Type M for Murder said...

Thanks, Charlotte.

Michael Fleming said...

Great narrative-thanks for recognizing the efforts of the two women soldiers from the logistical side of the house. Those who have not worked the Log slice (the S3 for instance) often fail to understand the magnitude of importance that it plays in the success of any operation. As a reformed Artillery officer who did BN S4 (Battalion logistics & supply) duty, I experienced this up close. You can't succeed without beans, bullets, and gas.

Mario Acevedo said...

Great hearing from you, Mike. Good comments.