EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska — During exercise Northern Edge 2015, approximately 450,000 gallons of fuel per day kept nearly 60 aircraft here fueled up and flying the skies over Alaska to accomplish critical joint training.
To help support the increased aerial operations, up to seven additional Airmen and four additional Marines arrived at Eielson AFB from Japan, North Carolina and Kansas, to aid in refueling efforts. Up to five additional service members also supported refueling operations at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
“We were pretty excited for the opportunity to come to Alaska and help out with this exercise,” said Senior Airman Steven McCarthy, a 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels management technician from McConnell AFB, Kansas. “I’m used to refueling the tankers at McConnell, but here I’ve had the opportunity to refuel the fighters and learn more, so the experience has been very rewarding for me.”
The long days and busy schedule of flying sorties twice per day, keeps the fuels augmentees on their toes.
“We generally work about 10-hour days,” said Airman 1st Class Anthony Jackson, an 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels management technician from Kadena Air Base, Japan. “We wait for the first group of jets to land in the mornings and after they are parked and the crew chiefs have had a chance to work on (them), we drive the fuel truck to their location and fill (the jets) up.”
The fuels augmentees fill their trucks back up after the first group of jets have recovered, then begin the process again for the jets returning from the afternoon aerial training sessions. Often, the Airmen and Marines can refuel until 8 or 9 p.m. and up to 40 total aircraft, until the last one is full.
“Some of the aircraft take a little longer to refuel than others because they have larger tanks or smaller fuel lines and we can’t pump as quickly,” Jackson said. “But, it generally takes about 10 to 15 minutes per jet.”
Eielson AFB is equipped with fuel lines that run from the tanks underground to a mobile fuel stand located on the flightline. The Airmen and Marines are able to refill their trucks without driving off the runway and back on again.
“It’s really nice having the underground hydrant loop, because it expedites the refueling process,” McCarthy said. “Our goal is to get fuel to the jets as fast as possible, and the mobile fuel stand reduces our response time so we are able to get them the fuel they need quickly and efficiently.”
Fuel is essential to keeping aircraft flying and any mistakes could cost a service member’s life. While the fuels augementees work quickly, ensuring all the aircraft receive enough fuel to complete their mission, safely is top priority.
“If we don’t do our job right, someone could die,” Jackson said. “That’s why we take refueling seriously, and we make sure it’s done properly. It’s not just about speed; it’s about a job well done.”
At the end of the day, augmentees can go home knowing that part of the mission was accomplished and done well, McCarthy added.