AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar – The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing is the largest expeditionary wing in the world. At the heart of the Wing is a team of Airmen with the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, Fuels Management Flight, who work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make sure that aircraft are receiving the critical “life blood” of fuel that supports operations in the U.S. Air Forces Central command area of responsibility.
Since the start of the calendar year, the fuels management flight has pumped more than 135 million gallons of fuel. Their biggest customer is the KC-135 Stratotanker.
"Our job here is to make sure that the fuel is always flowing," said U.S. Air Force Technical. Sgt. Brandon Rodriguez, non-commissioned officer in charge of the fuels service center with the 379th ELRS/LGRF. "We are also like the heart of the base, as far as fuel goes. The drivers make sure that all the fuel [the blood] is moving from the heart to the organs [the aircraft] and if needed, the aerial bulk fuel delivery system team is taking that fuel down range."
The impact of fuel operations here is not limited to Al Udeid Air Base or to the aircraft currently assigned here. A team of Airmen help to extend the reach of fuel that supports the entire area of responsibility.
About half of the fuel issued, on average, goes into the KC-135 Stratotanker. "From there, the fuel can be re-issued to [other] aircraft throughout the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility,” said Airman 1st Class Jamar Gresham, a fuel distribution technician with the 379th ELRS/LGRF. “As a driver, we give it everything [we have] to keep the mission going, to keep the blood going to the organs.”
Fuel is not only distributed to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility by KC-135 Stratotankers but it is also distributed by fuel bladders when needed.
“We have the ability to load fuel bladders onto aircraft and send them down range,” said Tech. Sgt. Jason Neff, non-commissioned officer in charge of the aerial bulk fuel delivery system with the 379th ELRS/LGRF. “We will send a team with that aircraft and equipment to off load the fuel.”
The primary way of refueling air and ground operations is through the vehicle fleet of C301 refueling trucks, R-11 refueling trucks, R-12 refueling mobility units and ground product trucks.
The teams within the fuels management flight face challenges and obstacles while fueling the fight daily. The biggest challenge faced is keeping the vehicle fleet in service and operational and working at optimal levels in extremely high temperatures.
“The volume of aircraft that we refuel [each day] means that the trucks are on the flightline all day long,” said Neff. “In 100 degree weather, it wears on them. So, keeping the vehicle fleet in service is a challenge.”
To prevent any vehicle breakdowns a preventive maintenance team spends about four hours every morning examining the trucks in great detail.
“We check all the lights, tires for any bald spots showing wires, fluids under the hoods and we also take a fuel sample to ensure the fuel in the truck meets all requirements,” said Tech. Sgt. Dominic Francesco, non-commissioned officer in charge of the fuels preventive maintenance with the 379th ELRS/LGRF.
Not only do the Airmen maintain and service the trucks, but other Airmen are responsible for validating the integrity of fuel and cryogenics.
In the laboratory, samples are collected from aircraft and vehicles sources, bulk-storage tanks and dispensing equipment. The samples go through a series of tests looking for signs of contamination.
For some of the Airmen it is their first deployment. The smiles on the faces of these Airmen while working hard to execute the mission under extreme weather conditions, does not go unnoticed.
“We have individuals from active duty, guard, and the reserves. I’ve never seen so many people from so many places instantaneously meld together and work as a unit,” said Master Sgt. Russell Fields, fuels operations superintendent with the 379th ELRS/LGRF. “I’m quite proud of these Airmen.”