Nov 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
HANDLING about 38 million gallons of fuel a year and operating a 5.4-million-gallon storage tank farm are jobs the 96th Logistic Readiness Squadron's Fuels Management Flight team takes in stride at Eglin Air Force Base.
As a matter of fact, the team's expertise in supporting the base mission, fuel distribution, safety compliance, flight fueling, and other duties has won the American Petroleum Institute (API) Trophy for Superior Performance and General Excellence. The honor recognized the best fuels management flight in the Air Force for 2002.
“As fuels specialists, our operations are measured to the high standards set by API,” says Senior Master Sgt Alvin G Thomas, fuels superintendent at the northwestern Florida base. “Our job is to see that the warfighters get what they need.”
Aviation fuel supply operations begin when barges dock at the storage terminal area about twice a month, unloading 630,000 gallons of JP-8 fuel at each visit. Fuel can be offloaded from the barge at a rate of over 105,000 gallons per hour.
Shipments of diesel and gasoline arrive at the base via commercial tank truck carriers. Tank truck fleets serving the base include Florida Rock & Tank Lines and McKenzie Tank Lines. They deliver fuel to storage and dispensing facilities, including card-lock locations. For-hire carriers also transport JP-8 to Duke Field, a nearby auxiliary base.
“We keep the tanks at full capacity,” Thomas notes, particularly during hurricane season when the weather could interrupt shipments.
The tank farm consists of 64,000-gallon tanks for gasoline, 315,000-gallon tanks for diesel, and five-million-gallon tanks for JP-8.
Fuel use at the base is as great, if not greater, than most Air Force bases, says Master Sgt Howard Snider, another team member.
Managing storage and distribution is aided with a computerized program, Fuels Manager 2000 Inventory Management Automated Tank Gauging (ATG) incorporated into the Fuels Automated System (FAS). The program automatically measures storage tank volume and analyzes inventory, prompting replenishment orders accordingly.
Storing and handling so much product efficiently and safely makes the API award accomplishment even more a sign of the management team's success.
Additionaly, the war in Iraq impacted the base mission and the fuel management program. Foreseeing the potential for mission degradation in light of increased deployment, squadron leaders revamped duty schedules and acquired temporary hires to meet and exceed Eglin AFB mission demands. In addition, personnel served more than 3,640 man-days on temporary duty around the world.
“The best never rest” is the motto of the team, composed of a 120-person flight, known as the Panthers. The Eglin team, led by 1st Lt Joshua Schaad, Chief Master Sgt Timothy Langley, and Thomas, oversaw support of 18,851 sorties with 28 million gallons of JP-8 fuel. They achieved a 12-minute average response time, 18 minutes below the command standard, even with 25 percent of their personnel deployed.
Compliance and developing and implementing environmental issues for spill containment is another responsibility of the Panthers. The flight received zero inspection write-ups during the annual Environmental Compliance and Management Program Inspection.
The fuel management program is tasked with supplying fuel to aircraft and ground vehicles. As a result, the loading racks are kept busy as tankwagons come and go, says Keeya Daniel, a civilian employee.
On the flightline, pipelines from storage tanks link to hosecarts and pantograph arms for refueling aircraft. JP-8 can be pumped into aircraft at a rate of 300 gallons per minute. About four planes can be refueled in 12 minutes.
The base uses Oshkosh R11 refuelers specified for aviation fuel. The 6,000-gallon tankers are equipped with Scully overfill protection systems. Gasoline and diesel are hauled in C300 tankwagons with 1,200-gallon capacity.
Training for Panther team members starts with six weeks of initial instruction before they arrive at the base for duty. On-the-job training follows. Civilian personnel also are involved in flightline service. To be on a fuel line usually requires two-to-three-weeks on-job training at the base.
The training and its resulting excellence in execution played a large role in the team winning the API award. API develops and maintains more than 500 standards and specifications that address all aspects of the oil and natural gas industry.
In the area of fuels and fuel handling technology, the collaborative efforts representing both civilian and military working as a team have helped insure the quality of the fuel that goes into the wing tanks is the same as when it leaves the refinery.
Capturing the API award capped the team's training and on-the-job efforts, which was more outstanding because it is the first time an Air Force material command unit has garnered the award since its inception in 1966.
“It's not easy once you get to the top to maintain that level of superiority year after year,” said Langley. “This flight has stayed on top of the game. People have persevered to sustain this operation at a level of excellence.”
In addition to the team's skills at fuel supply, the men and women were noted by API for volunteering their time in various community programs. Hours were logged with Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, and the American Cancer Society.
“The members of the flight give back to our community in so many ways,” Thomas said. “Our team makes the time to support many worthy endeavors.”
“This year, the men and women of the 96 Fuels Flight were determined that this award was theirs,” said Col Dawn Hodge, 96th logistics readiness commander. “They knew they were the Air Force's best and had faith that the judges would recognize their all-around excellence.”
Winning this award doesn't give the flight a respite from its daily duty of providing the fuel requirements for the largest base in the free world. However, it does allow all those involved with the flight a chance to brag a bit, Thomas says.
“We've improved year after year. This year we proved that we are the best.”
When API presented the award earlier this year, Red Cavaney, API president and chief operating officer, said, “It is important for us to remember that at every base around the world, there is an outstanding fuels team ready to meet any challenge to America's security. Over the past year, America's servicemen and women have heroically met new and unprecedented challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in other parts of the world. Fuels teams have been at the forefront of these efforts that have made Americans so very proud.”
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