Fuels flight battles arctic cold to accomplish mission
By Senior Airman Justin Weaver, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 05, 2007
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
The thermometer reads 42 degrees below zero as Airmen zip up their cold-weather gear in preparation for a daily check of the bulk fuel storage tanks.
For the 13-person team from the fuels bulk storage facility, working at the farthest-north Air Force base in the world - located 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle - presents these Airmen with challenges some have never faced before.
The team manages the operation and maintenance of three bulk fuel storage complexes, three flightline hydrant fueling complexes, a cryogenic storage facility and the military service station.
"Our team faces the challenge of managing more than 26 million gallons of fuel in temperatures as low as negative 60 degrees," said Trent Buck, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron bulk fuel storage manager.
Managing the fourth largest fuel storage area in the Air Force, Mr. Buck ensures all operations are conducted in a safe, timely and environmentally conscious manner.
"We issue and receive between 22 and 26 million gallons of jet fuel annually," Mr. Buck said. "We also receive and store all ground fuels for vehicle, AGE [aerospace ground equipment] and bulk organizational tank operations."
In addition to all the Air Force technical and safety criteria that must be met, all fuels facilities and complexes must be maintained and operated in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency and Alaska's state environmental standards, Mr. Buck said.
The responsibility of performing daily, weekly and monthly safety and maintenance checks on the fuels storage tanks falls to Airmen like Staff Sgt. Kyle Evans and Airman 1st Class Jeremiah Ulu.
"Working in fuels storage has given me a broader view of my career and what actually goes on behind the scenes as far as where we get our fuel and how it is stored," Airman Ulu said. "It's always good to see the bigger picture instead of having a myopic view knowing only one side of the coin."
With the motto of "Two heads are better than one," Airman Ulu stresses the importance of staying safe and having a wingman with him at all times.
"Safety always plays a big part in our job," Airman Ulu said. "The wingman policy is very important to us, especially working in the harsh weather conditions. A wingman is there to call for help immediately when it is needed. It's all about a quick response time to an incident or problem."
The importance of a wingman hit home for Airman Ulu while on a deployment in Iraq.
"A civil engineering tank that fed fuel to generators that supplied power to our compound was hit by a mortar," said Airman Ulu. "My wingman and I were called immediately to help de-fuel the tank. We saved thousands of dollars worth of fuel that otherwise would have ended up in the ground due to the holes the shrapnel made in the tank. It was a good feeling to know we helped out our brothers and sisters."
Sergeant Evans enjoys the diversity his job offers him.
"We have the opportunity to see the mission of every squadron," Sergeant Evans said. "From the pilots who need fuel for their aircraft to the civil engineers who need fuel for their snow plows, we see every component of this base all working together to complete the Eielson mission."
Safety is a major concern in cold weather conditions, Sergeant Evans explained. "At a cold weather base, the importance of training and job knowledge plays a big role in safety and we know our jobs and we do our work correctly.
Understanding their job and ensuring all fuel and cryogenic systems and the products they contain are maintained in the highest state of readiness is something the bulk fuels storage facility team's is proud of.
"The team does an outstanding job of looking out for each other," Mr. Buck said. "Safety is constantly stressed and tasks are tailored so realistic goals can be attained considering current conditions. I couldn't be more proud of the team I work with here."