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News | June 24, 2022

Fuels Airmen hone interoperability, ACE capabilities, during RFA 22-2

By Senior Airman Patrick Sullivan 673d ABW/PA

With more than 70 aircraft across 20 units, running simulated combat air operations for two straight weeks, RED FLAG-Alaska takes a lot of gas.

The 673rd Logistic Readiness Squadron’s Fuel Management Flight is in charge of ensuring that Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s share of those aircraft have the fuel they need to get off the flight line and out to the mission.

After just one week of the exercise, the 673rd LRS provided 600 refuels, totaling 2.3 million gallons, including to tankers providing aerial refueling missions over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.

The exercise does come with some backup, and 673rd LRS partnered with members from Air Guard and Reserve fuels flights, as well as fuels Airmen from different active-duty installations traveling in for the exercise.

“The flying tempo picks up tremendously, but this gives us a chance to prove our capabilities,” said Staff. Sgt. Nathan Smith, a 673d LRS fuels service center supervisor. "We get to work with units from other installations and foreign militaries, creating a diverse range of training opportunities for both our guys and those TDY up here.”

RED FLAG-Alaska provides unique training opportunities for fuels Airmen as they support missions that aren’t normally seen in day-to-day duties, allowing them to hone Agile Combat Employment capabilities.

“It gives our guys an opportunity for special missions that we don’t necessarily get to do often,” explained Master Sgt. Sarah Sarten, 673d LRS fuels information service center section chief, “In fact, we just had two days during this Red Flag that we had guys go out and do Aerial Bulk Fuel Delivery System missions up in Northern Alaska.”

These missions provide Airmen with valuable ACE experience and training through supporting and working out of simulated forward operating bases. These are duties that the 673rd LRS team normally only gets to perform while actively on deployments or temporary duty assignments.

“[The mission] is to go out to forward locations to fuel smaller aircraft. There's a fuel bladder on the plane and then it's got a feeding mouth module that will pump fuel from that bladder to the aircraft,” Sarten added. “ So typically, your C-130s, your C-17s will be the ones holding or doing the ABFDS missions because they can land into more austere locations.”

During an exercise with so many moving parts and pieces, fuels flight is the beating heart that keeps the mission alive and running.

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson website.