More than big green trucks: How Andersen Airmen fuel the fight
Andersen Air Force Base, Guam -- From the very big to the very small, when aircraft on the flightline need energy for the long and short hauls across the Pacific, Airmen with the 36th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels management flight stand ready to refuel.
Whether driving the ubiquitous green refueling trucks or verifying the quality of the JP-8 jet fuel, no day is like any other for the teams, who are commonly referred to by their petroleum, oil and lubricant, or POL, acronym.
No matter how big the job is, POL Airmen may fuel four to eight planes on any given day to keep the mission flowing smoothly and are ready in a moment’s notice and around the clock. Yet, while airplanes are the mission focus, the teams also fuel many other vehicles and machines to include helicopters, generators and forklifts.
“We power the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Kerr, the 36th LRS fuels distribution supervisor, who has been working in the career field for more than eight years. “Everyone has their part in making the mission go, but no matter how you look at it, the jets don’t fly without gas.”
While the flight’s R-11 trucks can transport up to 6,000 gallons of fuel close to the aircraft, much of the crews’ work is hands-on as the Airmen repeatedly pull a fuel line weighing nearly 100-pounds to reach the planes’ intake.
When servicing larger aircraft, the POL experts connect an R-12 refueling truck to the hydrant connection pit. From the hydrant, the truck pumps fuel from the underground pipelines directly to the aircraft -- ensuring a continuous flow of fuel.
“One time I refueled a C-5 Galaxy,” Kerr said. “It took about 52,000 gallons of fuel. I thought it was crazy (the aircraft) could hold cargo (in addition to) that much fuel.”
The fuels Airmen also tackle challenges including exposure to the elements and trucks falling out of the lineup due to maintenance, causing the Airmen to swap equipment to continue the fueling mission.
Airman 1st Class Nicholas Blanchette, a fuels mobile distributor with 36th LRS, said that one of his favorite aspects of the job is the camaraderie and seeing the mission come together.
“We are more than big green trucks,” Blanchette said. “With this job, you stay busy enough that you don’t think about much else than the job and you keep pressing on.”
When the flightline gets busy during large-scale exercises such as Cope North, an annual multilateral exercise, the teams pick up the pace to meet the demands of a packed flightline with help from their international wingmen.
“One of the hardest parts during Cope North 16 was the language barrier between us and the other service members, but we didn’t let it stop the mission,” Blanchette said. “We came together and got it done regardless of the challenge. The other nations that were here are absolutely great and awesome to work with. It has been a great opportunity to work alongside them.”
While the jobs may be arduous and the days long, POL Airmen are mission essential, Kerr said.
“This is one of the few jobs where you can work with all different kinds of aircraft and countries as well as travel the world,” he said. "What’s not to love? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”