Fuel for thought: POL keeps the mission moving

  • Published
  • By Mr. Mitch Topal
  • 166th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

NOTE: This is the first in a series of feature article about the 166th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS). Tasked with providing everything from paperclips to parachutes, fuels and CBRN gear, the mission of LRS is to provide responsive, reliable and sustainable logistics support anytime, anywhere.

Fuel for thought: POL keeps the mission moving.
By: Mr. Mitch Topal, 166th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL) are the lifeblood of our mission. They keep our C-130H2s in the air, the wheels on our ground vehicles turning, and our machinery from wearing out. Without them, everything would quite literally grind to a stop.

The 166th Airlift Wing has a skilled group of three full-time and nine guard status Airmen tasked with managing, distributing, and testing the jet fuel and other lubricants used by the various units that need it on time and without fail. A major challenge is that they are a small shop and perform the same tasks with just as many products as a 20 – 30-man shop at an active-duty base. Needless to say, they all wear multiple hats.

SMSgt Bradley Childs, the Logistics Readiness Squadron’s fuels superintendent manages the testing, storage and utilization of fuel, and cryogenics for the aviator’s O2 breathing apparatus.

“With fuel, your biggest enemy is water. So, the fuel gets filtered

three times. Once through a filter separator when it goes into our storage tanks. It gets filtered a second time when it goes from the tanks into our trucks. It gets its third filtration – there’s a filter separator on the truck – when it goes from the truck into the aircraft,” explains Childs.

The 166th LRS also supplies fuel to Delaware National Guard Army Aviation.

“On the Army side, they have their own trucks but don’t have any fuel storage. They come from the other side of the [air]field multiple times a week. We fill their Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTTs),” said Childs.

Testing is another critical part of the mission. Fuel specialists use their scientific training to handle petroleum products in the base testing laboratory. When fuel is received, it is tested for sediment, water, and Fuels System Icing Inhibitor (FSIH or “fizzy”) which is an additive that bonds with any water molecules and prevents them from freezing. At altitude, entrained water could freeze and clog an aircraft’s fuel lines and filters.

In addition, JAA fuel must also have a conductivity (CU) additive that is a static dissipator. The fuels today are much safer than the old JP4, which was phased out in the late 1990s or early 2000s. JAA is kerosene-based and has a flash point of 120° Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to trigger the formation of vapor.

“That’s another thing we do is test the flash point,” said Childs.

The lead time to get aviation fuel is about 3 days. With 2 storage tanks of about 40,000 gallons apiece, there is plenty for the mission of feeding our eight thirsty C-130H2s. But the 166th also supplies Army aviation, and if a single C-17 transient flies in, it could drain a tank completely. Now, with Air Force One or Marine One coming in with less than 24 hours’ notice, the fuels team tests the fuel truck and hand it over to the United States Secret Service (USSS) who quarantine it until it’s needed. It’s a juggling act that has to be flawless.

On the horizon for the 166th LRS POL team is the construction of a new garage and servicing unit for the wing’s fuel trucks. It will be located between the JAA tanks and the propulsion shop. It’s at the 100% design phase and is now with the 166th AW contracting office.

With an annual (F/Y 2020) usage of 1,210,178 gallons of JAA, 10,429 gallons of unleaded gasoline and 17,717 gallons of diesel, the three full-time and nine drill-status professionals of the 166th fuel shop are highly trained to get the job done efficiently to accomplish their multiple missions.