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Yokota fuels specialists support global missions

by Master Sgt. Val Gempis
Air Force Print News

12/2/2004 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Fuels specialists from the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron here provide a vital service for Air Force defense and humanitarian missions worldwide.

"Providing fuel, oil and lubricants is one of the most important logistic factors that influence strategic and tactical planning in today's military," said Tech. Sgt. Charles Egri, assistant team chief of the seven-person fuels mobility support equipment element.

They maintain more than 300 separate kits and equipment items including the R-14 air transportable hydrant refueling system.

This system is a portable, hydrant-refueling system that can be airlifted or ground shipped anywhere in the world and made fully operational in a matter of hours. Each R-14 contains a pumping unit; two 50,000-gallon bladder tanks; and all the hoses, valves, and fittings necessary for operation. The pumping module is configured on a four-wheeled trailer and features the same components found on conventional servicing equipment.

Sergeant Egri said that these systems are important because they provide aircraft and ground fuel support at forward-deployed locations.

Senior Airman Michael Gullett, a fuels specialist, got a firsthand look at how much his job affects Air Force combat flying missions during a recent deployment in Iraq.

"We worked 24-hours daily feeding fuel (and) connecting hoses, valves and operating pumps to various cargo (aircraft), helicopters and fighter aircraft," he said.

Even under normal conditions it is not easy handling volatile liquids that can ignite or explode with the smallest sparks from static electricity. In Iraq, there were times when Airmen conducted fuel operations as enemy forces lobbed mortar rounds at their base, Airman Gullett said.

"It was scary and exciting at the same time. We just focused on our job. We knew those aircraft needed fuel to support our forces," he said.

Airman Gullett said he was proud to know aircraft that he refueled had destroyed enemy positions.

"It gives (me) a sense of accomplishment knowing that what I do helps saves lives. Possibly including mine," he said.

Senior Airman David Cameron, another fuels specialist, said that the fuel mission is not confined to supporting the flightline. Gasoline and diesel fuel that keep ground vehicles and generators running are as important as aviation fuel.

"Sometimes we'd be driving in a truck for hours filling generators with fuel to ensure the base has electrical power. Although we work behind the scenes, our operations touched everyone," Airman Cameron said.

The Yokota unit is one of two active-duty fuels mobility support equipment units in the Air Force.

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