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Fuels team assists in hurricane recovery efforts

NEW ORLEANS -- Staff Sgt. Tim Childress (back) helps Master Sgt. Steve Wilgus prepare an R-11 jet fuel truck for a mission here.  A fuels team from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed here to assist with refueling operations in the city, to include refueling generators and stranded vehicles.  Sergeant Childress is assigned to the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Barksdale, and Sergeant Wilgus is with the Louisiana Air National Guard.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

NEW ORLEANS -- Staff Sgt. Tim Childress (back) helps Master Sgt. Steve Wilgus prepare an R-11 jet fuel truck for a mission here. A fuels team from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed here to assist with refueling operations in the city, to include refueling generators and stranded vehicles. Sergeant Childress is assigned to the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Barksdale, and Sergeant Wilgus is with the Louisiana Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo)

NEW ORLEANS -- An R-11 jet fuel truck drives through the flooded streets here to its operating location.  A fuels team from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed here to assist with refueling operations in the city, to include refueling generators and stranded vehicles.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

NEW ORLEANS -- An R-11 jet fuel truck drives through the flooded streets here to its operating location. A fuels team from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed here to assist with refueling operations in the city, to include refueling generators and stranded vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo)

NEW ORLEANS --- Tech. Sgt. Lee Meyers (left) and Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Nabors discuss refeuling operations here.  A fuels team from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed here to assist with refueling operations in the city, to include refueling generators and stranded vehicles.  Sergeant Childress and Chief Nabors are assigned to the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Barksdale.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

NEW ORLEANS --- Tech. Sgt. Lee Meyers (left) and Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Nabors discuss refeuling operations here. A fuels team from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed here to assist with refueling operations in the city, to include refueling generators and stranded vehicles. Sergeant Childress and Chief Nabors are assigned to the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Barksdale. (U.S. Air Force photo)

NEW ORLEANS (AFPN) -- Plowing through 5 feet of water and providing fuels assistance to those who request it is not the typical job for an Air Force fuels team, but here they did what needed to be done.

A fuels team with the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron left Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Sept. 1 to assist with helicopter refueling in response to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. With them, the team brought two R-11 jet fuel trucks and a C-300 1,200 gallon ground product truck.

While en route, the team was told their mission was relocated to Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, La.

“When we arrived, the Army and Navy were not expecting us and they had the (helicopter) refueling mission under control,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Nabors, who is on the fuels team. “We asked what we could do to help and they said they had a mission they could not get their hands around, and we would have to take security, but there were locations throughout New Orleans needing refueling.”

Chief Nabors and his team took one of the R-11 trucks to the area surrounding the Superdome and began refueling anything that took diesel with JP-8 instead because it is compatible with diesel.

“We fueled generators for critical facilities, we got city hall up and going, refueled stranded vehicles, and once fueled 90 5-gallon containers which were then airlifted to the top of a building to start the generators there,” the chief said. “The most amazing thing was we drove up the ramp of the Superdome and all around the top of it refueling generators.”

The team also refueled the less mobile Army High Extended Mobility Tactical Trucks with a fuel module on it.

“The Army HEMTT drivers were jealous of us,” Chief Gregory said. “We could get places they could not and had a 6,000-gallon tank which they didn’t have.”

The team staged out of Belle Chasse, La., and had to drive through water each day to get to their work location. The R-11 performed remarkably in the water, and at one time the water was only 3 inches below the windows, the chief said.

The majority of the time, the team had no communications with their home base or 1st Air Force because of cellular communications being down the first few days after the hurricane.

“We got a call from (a) troop’s spouse of all people while we were … in New Orleans,” Chief Nabors said. “Once we knew his phone was working, it became the primary phone for the operation until there was more cellular capability.”

Four days into the operation, the team discovered the Air National Guard was refueling helicopters at a baseball field. The Guard was handling more than 400 refuels a day and was not able to handle all of them because of the logistical challenge of getting fuel and only having two R-11 trucks.

“We sent one of our R-11 trucks over to help them,” the chief said. “This way there were three trucks refueling. One could be at Belle Chasse getting more fuel and two at (the baseball field) refueling helicopters.

“The whole goal was to get both the downtown and (baseball field) operations to be self-sustaining for fuel support,” he said.

Throughout the operation, once the team was in place, they did not miss one refueling operation in downtown or at the field.

“The team shined and the R-11 was remarkable, it was designed for flightline use and we had it off terrain, on docks, on the Superdome, on ports and took it through 5 feet of water,” Chief Nabors said.

“I’ve been the evacuee of a number of hurricanes and (New Orleans) was by far the best challenge to be able to help the people,” he said. “I feel good, with more than 27 years in, I still get that good warm feeling.”

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