AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates , Jan. 26, 2019 —
Directly supporting the flying machines of ADAB – E-3 AWACS Sentry, KC-10 Extender, U-2 Dragon Lady, and RQ-4 Global Hawk – the various types of fuel plays a key part in the mission. The fuel needed for these aircraft is like food to all living things on earth.
The 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Flight, also known as Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants flight, or POL, provides, stores, tests and distributes fuel – the bread and butter of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
“The job of the Fuels Laboratory and POL as a whole is one of the most important jobs in the Air Force and second only to personnel in total cost,” said Staff Sgt. Ronald Wilkey, 380th ELRS fuels laboratory supervisor. “Without good clean fuel, pilots are pedestrians.”
The POL flight mission is no simple task. They are a 24-hour shop who work very closely with the fuel needed to feed the fight. This starts with ensuring the fuel meets strict standards.
“Not only do we sample the jet fuel that comes into ADAB,” said Senior Airman Anthony Castro, 380th ELRS fuels laboratory technician, “we also sample all the gasoline and diesel used for ADAB's vehicles and generators around the installation. It is our responsibility to verify the fuel grade as well as run test to ensure the quality of the fuel meets the specifications.”
Keeping up with Air Force specifications, the fuel is tested from the pipeline receipt as the fuel enters the base, while it is in the fuel bladders, and finally from the truck which issues the fuel. Working around these storage facilities takes both brains and brawn.
“It requires a lot of heavy lifting for most equipment; especially when changing out Fuels Operational Readiness Capability Equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. James Dillard, 380th ELRS fuels facilities supervisor. “Generally, the whole shop will be involved when moving FORCE equipment. Being physically fit is beneficial to working in the storage area due to the heavy equipment.”
The brains come in with the precision it takes to deal with how the fuel is transported.
“No fuel, no flying,” said Senior Airman Melvin Tucker, 380th ELRS fuels storage technician. “It’s something they have to have each day, and not just every now and again. Tankers can take up to 40K gallons in fuel. That is the about seven trucks worth, but with the hydrant system, one truck can meet the demands of any heavy aircraft.”
The hydrant system and the Airmen behind it are key to the mission due to their logistical skills. The system and its operators monitor and control the fuel from the bladders all the way to the flight line and into an aircraft.
“My job is very important to the Air Force mission because the fuel is the very life blood of the Air Force,” said Airman 1st Class Charity Rodriguez, 380th ELRS fuels distribution operator. “If I miss a step to verifying the aircraft is getting the right grade of fuel, and I issue the wrong grade of fuel or do not properly follow my checklist, that aircraft can be taken out of commission and Air Superiority will be compromised.”
Knowing how principal their operation is, fuels distributor operators don’t skip a beat when making the multiple runs daily to refuel aircraft.
“The length of time the refueling process takes depends on the type of aircraft,” Rodriguez said. “Larger aircraft take more than an hour, whereas, smaller aircraft take about twenty to thirty minutes. On average, each driver refuels two to three aircraft a day, which is about twelve to eighteen aircraft refueled per shift.”
The Airmen are the linchpin to ADAB’s mission success by directly feeding the fuel into the mighty aircraft in order for them to execute the strategic game plan of maintaining facility and vehicle operability for all organizations assigned.
“Our Airmen in POL are some of the hardest working, team-oriented Airmen in today’s Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Jonathan Herrera, 380th ELRS fuels operations section chief. “We depend on each other to perform each individual task in order to provide quality fuel to our Air Force and coalition partners. If one Airmen does not perform at his or her highest standard, mission degradation is the outcome. When we see a vehicle drive by or an aircraft take-off then land hours later, we know we did our job to enable them to do their job. Nothing flies and nothing drives without a well-oiled POL Flight.”
Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the U.S. Air Forces Central Command website.