Fueling the fleet: 103rd Fuels Airmen keep Flying Yankees mission-ready

By Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker 103rd Airlift Wing

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The Flying Yankees of the 103rd Airlift Wing have accumulated numerous achievements in their relatively short time as a C-130H tactical airlift unit, most recently earning Air Mobility Command’s Meritorious Unit Award during their 2019 deployment to Kuwait. Critical to the unit’s success is the 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels flight, whose support ensures aircrews get the local training they need to accomplish their mission.

“Our mission is to support aircraft with jet fuel and liquid oxygen,” said Master Sgt. Nicola Nardi, 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels operations noncommissioned officer in charge. “We sample the fuel to make sure it meets specifications required by the Air Force. Clean and dry fuel is our goal.”

Fuels Airmen perform numerous tests to ensure quality and safety before the fuel is loaded onto the aircraft.

“Tanks and trucks get tested daily to make sure there’s no water contamination,” said Nardi. “Fuel and water separate for a reason, so we don’t want that in the aircraft. We also do various testing in the lab including particles, flashpoint, and fuel system icing inhibitors.”

Once the fuel is successfully tested, it’s then ready to transfer to the aircraft. Fueling a C-130, however, isn’t your typical trip to the pump.

“It could be from 2,000 to 3,000 gallons depending on their cargo, how far they’re flying, passengers on board—all of that comes into play,” said Nardi.

Fuels members work side by side with 103rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs during refueling, which has led to a positive working relationship between the organizations.

“They assist us, we assist them and we’re patient because we know they have their operational checks to do on the aircraft,” said Nardi. “It’s critical we refuel or defuel depending on what helps them prepare the aircraft for flight.”

An integral part of the fuels flight’s support capabilities is their group of traditional Guardsmen.

“On drill weekends it’s important they understand what our mission is and that they come in here and know exactly what to do because of their training,” said Nardi. “By doing that, they take the burden off of us full-timers so we can conduct training while they’re out servicing the aircraft. It’s great to give them the opportunity to get them involved as much as possible instead of being stagnant in the shop.”

Staff Sgt. Alexander Zorn, 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels journeyman, says he enjoys making a difference in the organization as a Guardsman.

“Some of the best experiences I’ve had were just performing my job and realizing that without fuels, the planes aren’t leaving the ground,” said Zorn. “When I see the planes fly overhead, it’s a good feeling knowing that I play a role in the mission being carried out.”

Being a part of this organization also gives members a chance to broaden their horizons, said Zorn.

“I’ve had the opportunity to go on a couple different trips, including to Hawaii for some additional training,” said Zorn. “It was really rewarding to see how different bases operate and to get to fuel different aircraft.”

The number of traditional Guardsmen in the fuels flight as increased significantly since the wing’s C-130 mission conversion, said Nardi.

“It’s a bonus for us,” said Nardi. “The training takes time, but the camaraderie between our Airmen is really good. They have to work together as a team since we have a two-person policy for our tasks, and I think that helps build bonds.”

This dynamic has led to a positive experience for Zorn during his time with the unit.

“It’s great to be involved in many different tasks, whether it’s going outside and getting your hands dirty fueling the aircraft or taking accountability of the fuel and making sure it’s pure with all the different lab tests we do,” said Zorn. “It’s a great experience being able to serve your country and community.”


Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the 103rd Airlift Wing website.