News | Feb. 27, 2018

POL Airmen power the mission

By Senior Airman Ashley Maldonado 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Providing clean and safe logistical fuel support to Team Shaw and developing resilient Airmen that are ready to engage across the spectrum of Department of Defense operations is the main mission and focus of the 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels management flight.

The 60 Airmen in the flight contribute to the mission accomplishment from one of five sections: fuels service center, fuels support, fuels laboratory, fuels distribution and fuels facilities.

“The mission here on base wouldn’t operate without fuels,” said Master Sgt. Justin Welch, 20th LRS fuels operations section chief. “We do everything from ground fuels to servicing the aircraft to the generators that run the buildings if the power goes out.”

The fuels management flight, also known as petroleum, oils and lubricants, or POL, provides fuel support to Team Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons, government owned vehicles and building generators all over the base.

“We issue the lifeblood of war, looking at the big picture Air Force-wide,” said Welch.

Before heading out to the flightline, these Airmen begin their shift with briefs about safety and what to expect for the day. They must then inspect all their equipment and trucks to ensure everything is working properly.

POL lab Airmen ensure the highest quality of fuel possible by repeatedly testing samples looking for contaminants using various types of equipment, such as flash point testers, density meters and oxidation stability analyzers. If the sample is free of contaminants, the fuel is pumped into refueling trucks and used to fuel the F-16s.

Control center Airmen manage and log all the trucks and fuel that are distributed around the base.

“I believe we have the best and most hard-working Airmen here,” Welch said. “Early in the morning, we’re out checking the R-11s; that’s what we use to service the fuel, those big green trucks out there hold 6,000 gallons. We check those out, then we wait for the F-16s to call so we can catch them. (Our schedule) depends on the flying hours for that day.”

Senior Airman Reinhardt Andersen, 20th LRS fuels distribution operator, explained how mission critical the POL flight is by refueling approximately 30 aircraft on a normal day. He went on to say how it is imperative for fuels Airmen to ensure they are on time and ready to go because if they are late, the mission and the pilots’ flight times are hindered.

With an average fuel load of 1,100 to 1,400 gallons, the F-16s use between 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of fuel per day. However, on weeks when hot pits are run, the jets can use about 100,000 to 120,000 gallons a day.

Hot pit refueling is a procedure usually performed in a combat situation to rapidly refuel aircraft while their engines are running, resulting in a speedy refuel to rush pilots right back into the fight. POL and 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen practice this technique to keep their skills sharp and ensure they are able to provide combat-ready air power at a moment’s notice.

The POL Airmen continuously practice their skills at home and while deployed. With constant support from the POL flight, the F-16s assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing can continue to accomplish the suppression of enemy air defenses mission and maintain the Air Force’s number one priority readiness.


Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Shaw Air Force Base website.