Running on High Octane: POL fuels support, combat operations

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
(Editor’s note: Due to safety and security reasons, last names and unit designators were removed.)

It’s 9 a.m. and even though it’s already 100 degrees outside, the temperature continues to climb.

Chatter comes across the radio for a fuel request and Airman 1st Class Arnaldo, a fuels distribution operator, wipes the sweat off his face, hops into his R-12 Refueler and heads to the flightline. To most, this is just another ordinary day, but for Arnaldo, the mission he is performing makes it anything but ordinary.

Every day, Arnaldo and his coworkers work around the clock, enabling aircraft to get off the ground to drop munitions over Iraq and Syria and help degrade and defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces.

“We support a lot of different missions here, like the KC-10 (Extenders) and (fighter aircraft),” Arnaldo said. “They’re flying missions every day against ISIL targets. It’s very important that we make sure they are fueled up and we get them to where they need to go.”

The men and women of the Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants (POL) flight deliver nearly 14.5 million gallons of fuel to aircraft in support of Operation Inherent Resolve every month.

“We’re here to help bombs get downrange,” said Tech Sgt. Christopher, the NCO in charge of fuels distribution. “We deliver the fuel that supports not only our assets, but our coalition partners. We fulfill over 50 percent of the in-flight refuels here in the theater.”

The mission is diverse, complemented with several weapons systems with unique fueling requirements. Each POL Airman must be able to meet those needs, prompting a keen eye for attention to detail.

“Each aircraft requires different amounts of fuel and some need fuel that is kept at certain temperatures,” Arnaldo said. “Because it’s so hot out here, the fuel expands and it makes a difference in how much fuel we can put in. We have to be cautious and use situational awareness when we are refueling, making sure we use the correct pressure on the nozzles so there is no leaking or venting of fuel.”

While the fuel operations on the flightline are a 24-hour operation, there’s an equally important mission happening on the other side of the installation.

“We handle all of the fuel needs for the support side of the base, like the self-service station, forklifts, the fire department vehicles,” Arnaldo said. “Our mission is to support their mission needs regarding fuel. We help the rest of the base operate.”

More than 173,000 gallons of fuel are needed monthly to support the installation’s other key assets, servicing everything from generators and air conditioning to aerospace ground equipment.

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to the POL flight. They’re not just pumping gas or driving trucks back and forth, they’re fueling an entire force to enable air superiority. It’s a mission that must not fail.

“We’re supporting one of the busiest flightlines in the region, including all the organizations here on base,” Arnaldo said. “When you look at all the missions the aircraft are flying, all the strikes against ISIL, it feels good to know that we’re a part of it. We’re a very important piece of the mission here.”