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Deployed fuels technicians keep OEF airlift rolling

by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
416th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

1/21/2005 - KARSHI-KHANABAD AIR BASE, Uzbekistan (AFPN) -- On a busy morning here, fuels technicians in the 416th Expeditionary Mission Support Squadron fuels management flight could have between three and five fuel trucks on the airfield topping off a C-130 Hercules or a C-17 Globemaster III.

It does not really matter where the planes are going; all that matters is they need fuel to get to the fight, said Master Sgt. Scott Ross, fuels manager.

"It's been said that a 'pilot is a pedestrian' if his plane has no fuel," said Sergeant Ross, who is deployed here from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. "Our job involves a lot more than putting gas in planes though. Our flight has many talented people who can do it all -- from doing minor maintenance on our trucks, testing the quality of fuel that goes on the aircraft to volunteering to help whenever asked."

Senior Airman Noah Myhrum, a fuels distribution journeyman in the flight deployed from McChord AFB, Wash., said besides fueling aircraft for Operation Enduring Freedom, part of his flight's job includes receiving cryogenics tanks filled with liquid oxygen, which are crucial for aircrew breathing. In all, he said, what they do is critical to supporting the war against terrorism.

"If we do our job right, it completes the chain of events to success -- ensuring cargo, troops and other mission-essential supplies get anywhere . . . they are needed."

"Our (trucks) will hold up to 6,000 gallons of fuel," said Senior Airman Seth Rindo, another fuels distribution journeyman deployed here from Grand Forks AFB. "To fuel a C-17, if it's empty, you could use up to four or five truck loads of fuel to fill it. For a C-130, it doesn't take as much fuel. Here, typically, it will take about one truck full of fuel to top off the Hercules."

With thousands of gallons of fuel moving here every day, someone has to follow where it goes.

"We have to keep track of all the fuel we distribute," Sergeant Ross said. "You can imagine that it wouldn't take long to reach a million gallons distributed. During wartime, like we are right now, the amount of fuel we move is a tremendous amount, and it's just a fact of life -- business as usual."

Supporting the war effort may be what the fuels Airmen said makes them the most proud about their work here.

"I'm proud to be a part of the war on terrorism," said Senior Airman Jason Vike, fuels distribution journeyman also deployed from Grand Forks AFB. "We need to stop terrorism, otherwise events like Sept. 11 could happen again."

Senior Airman Miriah Campbell, a fuels distribution journeyman deployed from Charleston AFB, S.C., said coming to here was not her first deployment. But through the challenges of being deployed, whether fueling the aircraft, doing daily accounting or even inspecting the fuel trucks, it all goes better when you have a great team to work with.

"I think you could be in the worst place, but if you have a good crew, it will make doing your job that much easier," Airman Campbell said. "We have a close-knit career field. We work and play hard. Everyone you meet knows someone you know, so you always have to put your best foot forward. I wouldn't trade this job for any other."

Sergeant Ross said it might take less than 15 minutes to empty 6,000 gallons of fuel from a fuel truck into a plane, but when they call a "10-98," or "operation complete" to their deployment, it will not be an end to a lifetime of friendships built. Nor will it be without the memory that they made a difference in winning the war.

"We are a family away from family, and we take care of each other while we are here," Sergeant Ross said. "I have not seen another group that is so deep in tradition than our career field -- our roots run deep. But the fact is we are fighting a war here against an enemy that is as elusive as finding a leak in a fuel line. But we will win this fight by doing our job (to help) put our birds in the air."

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