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Vehicle Management welds fuel tanks back to life

Mark Flannery, a welder from Detachment 6 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, welds a steel plate to the bottom of a Jet Petroleum 8 tank in a vehicle management garage at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, April 27, 2018. Flannery was hand selected to come and repair the tank. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua King)

Mark Flannery, a welder from Detachment 6 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, welds a steel plate to the bottom of a Jet Petroleum 8 tank in a vehicle management garage at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, April 27, 2018. Flannery was hand selected to come and repair the tank. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua King)

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Without fuel, the world’s greatest Air Force doesn’t get aircraft in the air. When the trucks that deliver that fuel start to leak, a multi-team effort is needed to get them fixed and back to delivering fuel to the fight.

The 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management flight has been hard at work keeping the refueling vehicle fleet mission ready over the past few months at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

Recently, the team began to experience cracks in several of the over 10 year old trucks, which would have resulted in leaks if the trucks had stayed in service. With the help of nondestructive inspection, other units from the base and even a contractor from another base, the vehicle management flight began to plug the leaks.

“Our relationship with the (386th Expeditionary) maintenance group via NDI and combat metals has been amazing,” said Master Sgt. John Futrell, 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management flight superintendent. “They have been more than willing to assist us with whatever we need to get this job done.”

The process begins with draining the tanks and purging them of all fuel so when the welding begins there are no flammables present. The tank is removed from the rest of the truck so the leak, on the bottom of the tank, is easily accessible. Next, a welder was brought in from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

A welder with more than 10 years of experience in the area of responsibility was brought in because nobody here has experience with that type of welding, said Futrell.

After the welding was completed, Staff Sgt. Brittany Long, 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron NDI craftsman, used different compounds to ensure there were no cracks in the new weld.

First the penetrant is put on the weld, it seeps in after some time and then is wiped clean, said Long. Then developer is used to pull the penetrant back out to identify cracks.

The NDI process on the fuel tank weld took about 45 minutes and they found no cracks in the weld.

“Getting to examine aircraft parts and even tanks like this makes me feel like a big part of the mission,” Long said.

When the refurbishments are completed, the fuels management flight will have 12,000 more gallons of fuel on hand to deliver to aircraft.

“To me, the feeling of knowing that my refueling maintenance team has had my back since day one is a great feeling,” Futrell said. “They understand the difficulty fuels will run in to when they lose an asset so they will do whatever it takes to get them back so we can keep the mission going.”