POL keeps RED FLAG-Alaska 21-2 fueled to fight
By Senior Airman Keith Holcomb, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 18, 2021
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Blues, greys, coyote brown, and greens surround a Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-15J Eagle, refueling the aircraft together during a 70 degree and sunny day on Eielson Air Force Base.
RED FLAG-Alaska 21-2 is underway and Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants Airmen assigned to the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron have worked with U.S. allies and visiting U.S. Air Force units to provide thousands of gallons of fuel a day, allowing pilots to fly, fly and fly some more.
Multiple 80th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcons blast past the deployed F-15Js from the 9th Air Wing, Naha Air Base, Japan. POL Airmen drive from aircraft to aircraft fueling the Japanese forces before their afternoon launches.
“There’s no difference from fueling up our aircraft or a partner nation's aircraft,” said Senior Airman William Pride, a 354th LRS POL preventive maintenance journeyman. “Sometimes we run into language barriers; we typically will use hand signals and find more common words to overcome it. A lot of the time it goes really well and there are no real issues and the more we work together the easier it gets.”
RED FLAG exercises are designed not only to provide multilateral training on a large scale, but also to provide training at all organizational levels, down to each individual Airmen.
“It’s different to move between normal and RED FLAG operations, but overall it's all the same, we get out to the aircraft and fill them up for their next flight,” Pride said. “We have multiple jobs required to fuel these aircraft; the larger jobs are distribution, facilities, lab, and dispatch, but it’s a team effort every day.”
While POL Airmen test fuel samples to make sure their fuel is safe, the distribution units are sent out by their dispatch teams, and their constant communication keeps the operation smooth. It’s a tried and true system for the Eielson Fuels Management Flight, but this doesn’t stop the requirement to excel every day.
“I know it’s cliche, but the key to RED FLAG exercises is flexibility and communication,” said 1st Lt. Abigail Russ, 354th LRS POL Fuels Flight commander. “That’s what these exercises are supposed to do, it really brings out those challenges so we can lean in and work on those solutions.”
With experience as a commander of many Logistics and Readiness Flights, Russ brings a large picture of RED FLAG operations to her Airmen, providing a valuable resource to help improve their fuel distribution process at every level.
“RED FLAG is a really unique opportunity to take our work to the next level,” Russ said. “It leads us to a lot of growth for our Airmen, our pilots, our allied nations, and it’s really awesome.”
While RED FLAG-Alaska 21-2 moves into its second week, there are still smiles on the faces of crew chiefs from every unit preparing to receive the next batch of fuel.
“I think the coolest thing about being support is seeing the jets take off and knowing the work you went through to make those flights happen,” Russ said. “I wish I could take credit for the successes we’ve had, especially here at RED FLAG-Alaska [21-2], but it really is the hard work of the Airmen making a difference on the line.”