Airmen make a difference one gallon at a time
by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
1/12/2010 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Pumping more than 188 million gallons of fuel to more than 9,500 aircraft would take a while, and probably would be one long line for the fuel pump.
Airmen of the 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels management flight here distributed that much fuel in 2009 for aircraft in the deployed theater of operations. The flight staff is responsible for all grades of jet fuel, ground fuel and cryogenics for the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing.
"We are the second largest fuels operations (flight) in the Air Force," said Senior Master Sgt. James Calhoun, the fuels management flight superintendent. "We provide more than 35 percent of the fuel to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility."
To meet the demand for fuel, a flight of 44 fuels Airmen work 24 hours a day meeting steady, daily taskings. Sergeant Calhoun said they have a comprehensive system to store and deliver fuel to their customers any time of the day.
"I think the biggest operation we have is our fuel off-loading capability," said Sergeant Calhoun, an 18-year veteran of the Air Force fuels career field. "We off-load up to 60 fuel tank trucks a day. That equates to just under 600,000 gallons a day."
Every day when fuel trucks arrive, they're off-loaded with two R-18 fuels operational readiness capability equipment, commonly known as FORCE pumps. Each pump can process 900 gallons a minute.
"If we receive 60 trucks in a day, it can take up to 20 hours to off-load them; that's why we operate around the clock," Sergeant Calhoun said.
At the fuel off-load facility, Airmen like Senior Airman Brandon Bailey, a fuels distribution journeyman, are busy setting up the R-18 pumps for offloading. Airman Bailey said he knows what he does is helping the success of operations in Southwest Asia.
"What we do plays a huge part in everything," Airman Bailey said. "Fuels operations is one of the most important parts of the deployed mission."
From the off-loading facility, fuel is pumped 2.5 miles to the 380th ELRS' fuel bladder storage facility. The storage facility has 16 fuel bladders capable of storing 200,000 gallons of fuel each. Overall, the facility's maximum capacity is about 3.2 million gallons of fuel.
At the storage facility, more fuels Airmen are on hand to maintain and operate the vast network of fuel lines and pumps that send the fuel to the hydrants on the flightline.
"There's a continuous requirement for us to inspect all of the fuel pipeline," said Sergeant Nichols, a 380th ELRS fuels distribution craftsman. "The stored fuel has to be looked after and maintaining the lines is critical for us to meet our daily mission requirements."
Sergeant Nichols added that he also knows his job has a significant impact on operations.
"It's rewarding because from here I know what I do has an impact on the warfighter down range," he said.
When the fuel makes it to the flightline, more fuels Airmen hop into either their R-12 or R-11 trucks and fill up deployed or transient aircraft with the gas they need for their missions.
"For the KC-10 (Extender) refueling operations here, we use the R-12 servicing vehicle," Sergeant Calhoun said. "They hook directly to the hydrant system we have and they're unlimited in how much fuel we can pump through them to the KC-10s. If we use the R-11s, we can only do 6,000 gallons at a time."
At this deployed location, most of the hydrant stations are used by the deployed KC-10s of the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron. For any other planes needing refueling, Sergeant Calhoun said any of the flight's 18 R-11 trucks could be out taking care of other aircraft.
"Most of the time the KC-10s are taking those hydrant parking areas so the R-11s service everything else to include any transient C-17 (Globemaster III or the E-3 (Sentry) birds," he said.
Before fuel is ever put on a plane, a fuels lab technician tests the fuel for purity and cleanliness.
"It's my job to make sure the right clean fuel is getting to the right aircraft," said Sergeant Wayman,380th ELRS fuels management flight fuels lab technician. "The fuel we pump from here is some of the cleanest you'll find anywhere."
When the fuel is ready to be pumped, it's the job of Staff Sgt. Grayson Glaze, the flight's fuel distribution NCO in charge, to send out drivers to meet each request for fuel.
"Depending on what aircraft it is and what location it is parked on dictates what truck we use," Sergeant Glaze said. "For example, when we use the hydrant outlets and the R-12 truck, they are fed fuel from an underground piping system that is connected to two 1.2 million gallon bulk storage tanks. Then we can pump up to 1,000 gallons per minute via two three-inch hoses with single point nozzles on the R-12."
The flight's vehicles are maintained daily. Sergeant Glaze said the fuels management flight runs daily, weekly, monthly, semi-annual, and annual inspections for their vehicles.
'We have achieved an outstanding 96 percent in-commission rate for those vehicles," he said.
After each plane is filled with fuel and returns from its mission, Sergeant Calhoun said all of his Airmen get a feel sense of accomplishment.
"I'm proud of all our fuels Airmen," Sergeant Calhoun said. "Every one of them understands they are doing something that affects a great chain of events. If we do our job right, and the next person does and so on, then the success of our wartime mission is met. And that is definitely something we can all be proud of."
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