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Fuels keeps fliers flying, drivers from walking

By Senior Airman C. Todd Lopez

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (Nov. 06, 2001) -- What's keeping an F-16 up in the air is virtually the same thing keeping a 12-passenger van moving distinguished visitors from one side of the base to the other or keeping the generators at the base exchange humming during a power outage.

And it all comes from the same place.

"We provide fuel to aircraft, AAFES, aerospace ground equipment, any type of vehicle on the base and transient aircraft," said Staff Sgt. Marklus Henley, 92nd Supply Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Henley, the night-shift distribution supervisor at the 39th Supply Squadron's fuels flight is on temporary assignment here in support of Operation Northern Watch.

The fuels flight stores, handles and distributes three types of fuel products here, including JP-8 or jet fuel, diesel fuel and standard unleaded gasoline. Additionally, in other parts of the base, the unit handles liquid oxygen and nitrogen storage and distribution.

The fuel arrives here via pipeline. Before it can be used by the base, it is filtered and subjected to laboratory testing to ensure it meets military standards. The fuel is eventually pushed to a storage yard. From there it is distributed via trucks, which can carry as much as 6,000 gallons of fuel, or by underground distribution lines terminating in panographs for refueling large aircraft. The panograph is a rigid metal hose with several swivels allowing it to be pulled out to aircraft.

The unit handles all fuel on base, but mostly it works to service the large volume of military aircraft handled by the flightline. Most fuels technicians on temporary assignment as part of Operation Northern Watch work the night shift.

"We have a 24-hour mission here," said Senior Airman Robert Searcy, a mobile distribution operator with the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan. "Basically we work nights to get fuel to the aircraft so they can take off in the morning."

Of course, the unit's 24-hour mission helps in emergencies as well.

"If somebody is hurt real bad and they need to get out, there is a redball situation," said Henely.

"In a redball, we will know before the plane hits the ground. We wait out there and are prepared to refuel them," said Searcy.

On a regular night, the unit moves an estimated 300,000 gallons of fuel, ensuring that not only are the aircraft on the flightline ready to fly their missions the next day but that everybody else on the base can drive to work the next morning.

"Without fuel, all the maintainers, all the pilots, all the ammunition troops, and all the security forces with their M-16s would be walking," laughed Henely. "Without fuel, everybody is a pedestrian."