POL: Fueling the fight

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hailey Staker
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Each day thousands of gallons of fuel are pumped into various government assets across the base, allowing them to operate at peak performance levels and ensuring mission success.

28th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels technicians play a vital role by monitoring this process, pulling samples of fuel from tanks and pumps across the base to test and ensure its quality and purity.

"I'm quality control and I ensure every drop of fuel, be it jet fuel or ground fuel, is what it is," said Senior Airman Bradley Sutter, 28th LRS fuels technician. "I'm ensuring we have the purist fuel we can get. I go and I test the fuel that we have on base to make sure that it's clean because dirty fuel can result in an aircraft crash."

Sutter explained how dirty fuel can clog up fuel lines while jets are at high altitudes, depriving the engine of fuel, resulting in lost power and potentially lost jets. More importantly, Airmen's lives are endangered if dirty fuel goes by unnoticed.

"To be responsible for that, it's a big deal but [mostly]... we just try to [take] it day to day so we're not putting all that extra pressure on ourselves," Sutter said.

Sutter added how, if the fuels lab did not exist, the Air Force would likely use dirty fuel - impacting ground and air operations.

"You don't find out you have dirty fuel until something bad happens," he said. "With ground vehicles, you get the engines all gummed up and they won't function so we can't get crew chiefs out to the jet to fix the jet. We can't get the police to the gates to protect all of us. That's what we're trying to avoid."

And because of Ellsworth's growing use of clean fuel, fuels technicians must test all fuel that comes into the base. Not only are aircraft using the fuel, government vehicles also use the service station operated and maintained by 28th LRS fuels flight personnel.

Once Sutter and other fuels technicians pull samples from tanks and pumps, they return to their lab and begin running various tests such as the bottle method.

"What we do in here is test all the fuel we pull from all over the base to ensure it has the correct amount of additives in it, that it has the right amount of particles," Sutter said. "If we need to make sure there are X amount of particles per gallon or liter of fuel, we will run the bottle method, where we pour a gallon of fuel through a filter and then we'll weigh the filter before and after. We'll then take the difference and that'll give us how many particles per liter is in a gallon of fuel, which will tell us whether our fuel is clean or dirty."

The fuels technicians' overall goal is to provide clean fuel for government assets, ensuring the Airmen operating them can safely complete their duties. Their actions impact every level of base operations - literally fueling the mission and ensuring its continued success.