News: Bulk fuel specialists pump ... aircraft up
Story by Lance Cpl. Cayce Nevers
IWAKUNI, Japan - Most jobs in the military are vital to keeping the Marine Corps operational. One job in the Marine Corps that continually allows the station to run smoothly is bulk fuel specialist.
“We are here to support all the squadrons with fuel,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan J. Combellack, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 bulk fuel specialist.
Without bulk fuel Marines, the aircraft aboard the station would be unable to accomplish their missions.
“The air station would probably be able to operate; however, there would be no tactical deployments,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan M. Ward, MWSS-171 bulk fuel specialist. “[The aircraft] wouldn’t be able to go anywhere without us.”
When Operation Tomodachi began, the flight line would have been chaotic had it not been for bulk fuel Marines and other flight line workers.
With the operation in effect, bulk fuel specialists ensured the aircraft were properly fueled.
On a day-to-day basis, bulk fuel Marines refuel helicopters, F/A-18 Hornets, AV-8B Harriers and other aircraft.
As bulk fuel specialists, the Marines test fuel, set up fuel systems and fuel aircraft.
“Our job is important because if something goes wrong, the first thing they look at is the fuel,” said Lance Cpl. Kelly B. Marable, MWSS-171 bulk fuel specialist.
To ensure that doesn’t happen, the Marines test the fuel daily.
“We pull samples of the fuel, test it and make sure it is clean,” said Marable.
Another important task the bulk fuel Marines must do is build the fuel systems they use.
There are three different systems the Marines must become acquainted with during their six-week long military occupational specialty school.
The three systems are the Tactical Air Fuel Dispensing System, Ground Expedient Refueling System and Helicopter Expedient Refueling System.
Along with building the systems, the Marines must decide which system is best used for everything they are refueling.
The TAFDS is used to fuel the aircraft, the GERS is used to fuel ground equipment, and the HERS is used to fuel helicopters.
“Luckily, we have a lot of experience at our noncommissioned officer level, as well as a good staff, who knows what they are doing,” said Combellack.
When the Marines in the “hot pits,” the aircraft fueling station here, receive a call that aircraft are coming, they head out to the partial TAFDS they have built and await the aircraft arrival.
When the aircraft gets into position, Marines run the fueling hose to the aircraft, hook it up and turn on the fuel.
On average, bulk fuel Marines pump approximately 1.4 million gallons of fuel a year to more than 1,000 aircraft, said Sgt. Colter D. Plumhoff, MWSS-171 bulk fuel training NCO.
The bulk fuel Marines are faced with challenges they must overcome.
“It can be stressful when in a 20-minute time frame, there are 15 birds and we only have four points to fuel them at,” said Combellack.
Without the bulk fuel specialists, the exercises and operations those aircraft participate in would not be possible.