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380AEW Article

Fueling the fight

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs

Keeping fuel bladders filled and aircraft gassed up is a vital mission for the fuel storage Airmen. Without fuel, the mission here stops.

That is why Airmen from the petroleum, oil and lubricants flight tirelessly work to keep the fuel flowing.

"We're responsible for receiving, storing and issuing clean, dry fuel and liquid oxygen," said Senior Master Sgt. Jeff, fuels management superintendent.

More than 50 people make up the flight. Its members offload up to 60 tank trucks per day of jet fuel and another 5-10 trucks of gasoline and diesel.

"We make sure the service station always has gas, that all of the generators on base have gas and, of course, all of the aircraft have gas,” said Jeff.

The jet fuel mission here is big, added Goins. On average, about 450,000 gallons of fuel is issued per day.

The bladder fuel storage facility can be considered the heart of the POL flight. It holds and distributes all fuel used throughout the base.

“This is why my bladder inventory is so important,” said Jeff. “We have to carry a certain amount of supply on hand at all times, so I need all of the bladders to be able to hold fuel.”

The flight maintains, inspects and replaces equipment to ensure the mission can be accomplished safely.

“Bladders were not made for long term fuel storage,” said Jeff. “They become unserviceable after they have been on the ground for a while and eventually succumb to ripped seams and tears causing it to leak beyond repair.”

Changing out a bladder is no overnight task for the fuels Airmen.

“From start to finish, it is about a three to four day process,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeremiah, fuels storage NCO in charge.

Just as any other task, changing a bladder comes with its own challenges.

“The challenge to every bladder change is getting all of the fuel out of the bladder so that it can be disposed of,” said Jeff. “The bladder usually needs to be cut open to get all of the fuel out from the lowest point. It is a pretty messy and time consuming job.”

Jeremiah, a native of Onalaska, Wisc., said that changing out a bladder enhances their mission effectiveness.

“It maintains the integrity of our fuel system,” he said. “It also allows us to meet our stock objective.”

With the Air Expeditionary Wing transitioning into a more enduring location, maintaining the fuel supply is essential to the success of the wing’s mission.

“Fuel is the lifeblood of the mission,” said Jeff. “We don't issue 450K gallons each day by accident. It takes a great team to get it done.”

(Editor’s note: Due to safety and security reasons, last names and unit designators were removed.)