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POL Airmen get first-hand look at jet fuel from cradle to grave

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Like fresh squeezed orange juice, jet fuel flows for four hours through 11 miles of pipeline from a refinery in North Pole, Alaska, to the base's "fuel farm" -- a sprawling collection of above ground tanks encompassing 25 million gallons of bulk storage.

The local oil refinery supplies the base directly with JP-8 through the pipeline, which saves the Air Force money by moving the valuable liquid through a distribution system inherently more efficient than by rail or truck.

Airmen from the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron's petroleum, oils and liquids flight witnessed firsthand, April 21, how the fuel they handle for the 354th Fighter Wing is distributed from cradle to grave during a tour of the refinery after hosting a similar event for refinery employees on a tour of base refueling facilities.

"Without POL there isn't an airplane that will fly off this instillation; without fuel, there would be no POL," said Master Sgt. Marcus Ortman, the 354th LRS fuels section chief. "The biggest advantage to having a direct pipeline to Eielson is the quick resupply. This fact is no more apparent than when we're issuing a lot of jet fuel during our RED FLAG-Alaska exercises."

The primary mission of the wing is to support RED FLAG-Alaska, and LRS will supply as much as five million gallons of fuel each exercise. In addition to regular training sorties throughout the year, the base also hosts the Alaska Air National Guard's 168th Air Refueling Wing, which flies the KC-135 Stratotanker. The Stratotanker delivers the JP-8 to other aircraft, air-to-air, through its 24/7 mission from interior Alaska.

"With that amount of fuel going out on missions, the pipeline allows us to provide fuel in the most effective manner possible," Ortman said. "Cost efficiency and streamlined logistics is a win for the mission and helps us be the best at what we do. Because of that, it was important for us to show the refinery employees our work as well as gain our own, first-hand knowledge of the crude oil to fuel production process."

For the plant operators at the refinery, who have worked the plant for years and seen and heard jets blast past the refinery, it was the first time they witnessed base operations from inside the gates.

"Everyone found it highly beneficial to see the end point of our fuel production," said Nicole Stewart, the refinery marketing and communications manager. "It also put our part in maintaining our nation's security into perspective."

Stewart also noted the importance for both teams to see the impact the pipeline has on preventing environmental problems.

"We have a well-managed truck rack, but there is an inherent risk involved with loading and unloading fuel into trucks," she said. "The direct pipeline is absolutely the safest method of transporting fuel very efficiently on a scheduled basis to Eielson."

By the end of a year, almost 20 million gallons of fuel will transfer hands and roll into the mission requirements to keep large force employment training aloft.

"Last year was a record year for fuels in regards to RED FLAG," Ortman said. "We'll issue millions of gallons of fuel during one exercise, which when done efficiently, establishes a great working relationship with each participating unit regardless of branch of service or country of origin. That's the end result of this process, fueling the fight... that's the mission."