News: Fort Hood fuelers support Vibrant Response 13
Story by Sgt. Diandra Harrell
NORTH VERNON, Ind. - Multiple lines of military convoys fill the large gravel lot in the staging area of Forward Operating Base Panther. In a small tent tucked away in the right-hand corner of the staging area, a group of five petroleum supply specialists try to escape the heat between refueling vehicles. Traffic is high as convoys return to the FOB from various missions. The fuelers take their positions as vehicles line up to be refueled before parking.
“We’re here from 6 a.m. to midnight,” said Cpl. Christopher L. Blanton, a petroleum supply specialist with the 53rd Quartermaster Company, 553rd Combat Support Sustainment Brigade. “It’s an all day operation.”
The soldiers with the 53rd QM Company, 553rd CSSB, from Fort Hood, Texas, work tirelessly to maintain fuel operations in support of the Vibrant Response 13 Exercise.
Vibrant Response is a training event led by U.S. Army North based at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. It is an exercise designed to test the preparation and execution of the Department of Defense’s military response to a catastrophic nuclear disaster when requested by civilian authorities.
This year’s event replicates a 10-kiloton nuclear detonation in a large American city.
In support of this scenario, six teams of petroleum supply specialists from Fort Hood were sent to Indiana and dispersed throughout the six different forward operating bases to provide logistical support for the units conducting the training.
Blanton and his four soldiers, Pfc. Kharee Julien, Pfc. Rafael Abreu, Pfc. Shawn Cline and Pfc. Juan Rodriguez support Forward Operating Base Panther, where they work 18-hour days at the fuel point.
The fuel point consists of two 5,000-gallon M969A1 5K tankers. One is used for motor gasoline (mogas), which is for non-tactical vehicles such as a 15-passenger van. The other is filled with jet propulsion fuel, type 8 (JP8), which fuels most military vehicles such as the “Humvee.”
“We fill up about 400 to 500 vehicles a day,” Blanton added.
Throughout the day the soldiers switch between filling up vehicles and operating the tanker.
“I make sure I switch my guys out so not to tire them out so quickly,” said Blanton, the fuel point noncommissioned officer-in-charge.
The fuel point has no shade, just two tankers parked along the right side of the staging area. Their only refuge is their sleep tent, which is located to the right of the fuel point. The tent’s front and back entrances are tied open during the day to keep air circulating, while they wait for more customers.
“Since their arrival to FOB Panther they have issued over 30,000 gallons of fuel,” said 1st Lt. Willie Wilson, the fuel point officer in charge and a Platoon Leader in the 24th Quartermaster Company, 13th Combat Support Sustainment Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. “They are doing an excellent job.”
“We issue about 4,500 gallons of fuel daily,” said Blanton. “We’ve had to close the fuel point down and wait to be refueled, but it hasn’t caused any delays in the mission.”
With only 350 gallons of JP8 left in the tanker and a long line of tactical vehicles waiting to be refueled, right on time a M978 2500-gallon fuel tanker pulls into the forward operating base.
First Sgt. Scott Gilbert, with the Forward Support Company, 46th Engineers, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade from Fort Polk, La., who was located at Forward Operating Base Jennings, issued fuel to the soldiers of the 53rd QM Company, 553rd CSSB so that they can continue mission.
“We don’t normally issue them fuel, but since we’re so close by we don’t mind offering the logistical support needed,” said Gilbert.
After being refueled its business as usual. Blanton and his soldiers immediately continue fuel operations. Quickly, but safely, filling up trucks as they filter through the fuel point.
Blanton supervises his soldiers ensuring all tasks are executed properly without error.
“They are performing above the standard,” said Blanton. “They’re able to pump fuel to multiple vehicles in a timely manner without spilling fuel. They’re doing their job extremely well,” he added.
The fuelers take pride in their work and are glad to be a part of this exercise.
“It feels good to actually do the job I was trained to do,” said Rodriguez. “I may never be a part of this of exercise again, so I’m going to do my best and enjoy it.”
Nearing the end of the exercise, the fuelers are still performing fuel operations while units pack up and prepare to return to their home stations. Blanton and his soldiers’ mission continues until everyone else has driven away.
“We are here until the last vehicle leaves,” said Blanton. “When that last truck drives out the gate, then we get to say ‘mission complete.’”