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NEWS | Oct. 5, 2017

POL troops fuel the fight against ISIS

By Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Much like day-to-day life in modern society, the military relies on fuels to power its ground and air operations. The fuels management section of the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron is tasked with the control, distribution and testing of the mission essential fuels that keep the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing and its Coalition partners in the fight against ISIS. 

Petroleum, oil and lubricant troops, or POL Airmen, work around-the-clock supplying approximately 150,000 gallons a day of jet fuel to outbound aircraft supporting the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve mission. 

“POL plays a significant role in the fight against ISIS,” said Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Hayes, the 386th ELRS fuels management flight superintendent, deployed from the Minnesota Air National Guard, St. Paul, Minn. “We provide the lifeblood of the base and the war effort. Fuel is an integral part of logistics in general, and is needed to keep the tanks and planes running.”

The 386th’s fuels management flight is broken down into smaller sections that include the fuel information service center, operations and fuels management. 

The operations side includes the distribution and storage of gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel and aviation gas. POL operations is also in charge of cryogenics and liquid oxygen, which is used in emergencies to create breathable air for aircrew members at high altitudes. The fuels management piece provides quality assurance, training, and supervision of the successful accomplishment of the mission. 

“The fuels service center is the information focal point for the flight,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Mrak, the NCOIC of the fuels service center, deployed from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. “The fuels service center has two major responsibilities.”

The first major responsibility is the control of flightline operations. The fuels service center acts as the liaison between maintenance crews and the fuels flight. It receives aircraft service requests and coordinates the refueling of approximately 30 aircraft a day. The second major responsibility is maintaining accountability of the installation’s fuel inventory and daily data reporting to the Defense Logistics Agency. 

“If everything stopped here and the fuel stopped, it would impact aircraft, cargo movement and transportation on base,” said Mrak. “Fuel is involved in everything from aircraft and vehicles to generators.”

To ensure that all the installation’s fuel is kept up to industry standards, fuel quality is tested daily in the fuels laboratory. Staff Sgt. Brandon Boyle, the NCOIC of the fuels laboratory, deployed from Langley Air Force Base, is in charge of conducting quality assurance tests for water, solids and additives in the fuel.

“When I test the fuels and I say this fuel is good to go I am now allowing maintenance to put fuel on these aircraft and complete a mission, which is ultimately saving American lives and hopefully destroying the enemy,” said Boyle. “If the fuel isn’t tested properly and bad fuel goes onto an aircraft, that aircraft could go down. I make sure that the fuel going on that aircraft is ok to be on that aircraft.”

Whether they are refueling transit aircraft, shipping fuel to forward deployed locations or keeping generators running on installation, the fuels management flight plays a significant role in the CJTF-OIR mission. The approximately 30 POL Airmen work together to support U.S. and joint Coalition partners ensuring they provide quality fuel to keep them in the fight.