POL flight keeps team Osan in the fight
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Everything needs some kind of fuel to live and to move, humans get our fuel from food, plants from sunshine and Osan's aircraft get theirs from the 51st Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum, oils and lubricants flight. It is up to the Airmen of the POL flight to keep team Osan in the fight.
"Without us [the wing] wouldn't be flying," said Airman 1st Class Steven Trottier, 51st LRS fuels facility technician. "We wouldn't be able to do the mission; we wouldn't be able to prepare for whatever comes next."
Driving a fleet of 14 R-11 and three C300 mobile fuel trucks and gassing up the bases aircraft might be what these Airmen are known for, but it is by no means the extent of their responsibilities.
"Every morning we do a general overview of all the trucks, making sure they're good to go," said Senior Airman Joshua Jordan, 51st LRS preventive maintenance technician. "If the trucks don't get checked out, don't get fixed, the fuel isn't getting out to the aircraft."
Weekly and monthly tests of the pipe lines and daily checks of filter separators are necessary to make sure the fuel contains no contaminants or water. Jet fuels, like JP-8, are kerosene-based and while similar to commercial aviation fuel, they have added corrosion inhibitors and anti-icing properties making it a high-quality fuel with demanding purity requirements.
"If excessive amounts of water or sediment contaminants are found, we have to lock out the line and have it lab tested," said Trottier. "If [contaminants are] in the filter separators we drain a few gallons [from the tanks] and sample [the fuel] by the quart. If we still get contaminants we flush the system, making sure all the fuel goes through the pipeline twice."
Maintaining miles of pipeline, two 3.2 million gallon tanks, 17 fuel trucks and gassing up all the aircraft that come and go from the air base is an around-the-clock operation necessary to the wartime capabilities of the base.
"People say that this is a thoughtless job," said Jordan. "If you go out there and mess one little thing up you're going to have fuel on the ground, that could mess up the aircraft and that's just going to make it harder for everybody involved."
The safety precautions required for handling jet fuel are necessary to prevent a negative impact on the environment. Should a spill occur, there could be permanent damage done to the soil and water table of the surrounding area.
"It may look like we're a bunch of truck drivers but there's a lot more to it," said Trottier. "These kinds of jobs are what make the flashy ones possible, not all of us realize it but we play an important role, and that's why I like this job."
They might not be the pilots or the ones maintaining and arming the aircraft, but they are just as crucial to getting jets off the ground; they provide the fuel that keeps Osan ready to fight tonight.