POL Scorpions bring fuel to the fight

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Siuta B. Ika
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
As the clouds in the skyline began to part, the F-22 Raptor emerged for its descent to the flight line below. Its tires touched the ground while the crew on hand awaited its arrival. As the F-22 slowed to a halt, two Airmen -- hoses in hand -- rushed out and attached the hoses to a compartment on the plane.

A few minutes later, the hoses were detached and the pilot received the signal indicating the crews were done. After being cleared, the aircraft taxied to the runway and departed from the flight line. Fifteen minutes: the time the Raptor had from touching down to being back in the sky continuing its mission.

This scenario is known as hot pit refueling. During this procedure, many items on the plane are inspected to ensure functionality. However, one of the main purposes of the procedure is to refuel the aircraft and get it back into action in a short amount of time.

Petroleum, oil and lubricants operators are an integral part of this procedure and many other operations. These POL operators with the 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron's Fuels Management Flight are called upon to supply and deliver the necessary fuel for every operation at Holloman -- from missions at the Holloman High-Speed Test Track and White Sands Missile Range to supporting the German Air Force aircraft and every other aircraft that touches down on base.

"Our mission is to deliver clean, water-free fuel to more than 100 locally assigned and transient aircraft," said Senior Master Sgt. Jon Voigt, Fuels Management Flight chief. "Every drop of fuel on this installation comes from POL."

In 2010, the Fuels Management Flight pumped 13 million gallons of fuel in support of Holloman's diverse mission.

"We dispense 271,000 gallons of aviation and ground fuel weekly," said Sergeant Voigt. "Without POL, the pilots can't fly their missions. We are also responsible for providing fuel for the base's vehicle fleet, which is over 1,000 vehicles."

To handle the flight's workload, Fuels Management is broken down into eight different elements -- each with its own specialty -- to ensure its mission is accomplished.

"We have a Base Fuels Laboratory that analyzes fuel for impurities, such as water and other contaminates; the Fuels Service Center, which is really the heartbeat of the flight; and Refueling Maintenance, which maintains 19 refueling vehicles valued at $2.2 million, to name a few," said Sergeant Voigt.

The flight also works closely with Akima Technical Solutions, who maintains the Bulk Storage infrastructure and the petroleum products until they are issued to aircraft, vehicles and equipment, said Sergeant Voigt.

"Everything is a team effort, " said Airman Richard Daddario, 49th Fuels Management Flight distribution operator. "We are all one big family. I think that's why we work together so well."

Accomplishing all this seems like a tall task for the 70 or so members of the flight, but everyone plays a role in mission success.

"We're always supporting the mission and trying to stay busy so we're never just sitting around," said Airman Jose DeSantiago, 49th Fuels Management Flight distribution operator. "If there's no aircraft coming in we stay busy around the shop. It's all about providing good service and a good product."

With much of the flight sharing a similar view as Airman DeSantiago, the flight's work has been noticed by many. Recently, they received the Drake Award from Air Combat Command for being the best fuels flight in the command. This is the second time they have won the award, the first being in 1995.

"It is a tribute to all the hard work my guys put in every day," said Sergeant Voigt. "I'm so happy their professionalism, dedication and ability to get the job done was noticed. The flight worked hard and absolutely deserved the award."

In March, the three finalists for the 2010 American Petroleum Institute Award will be announced out of a field consisting of the other major command winners. The winner of the prestigious award will be announced in May.

"This award is highly-coveted," said Sergeant Voigt. "It takes blood, sweat and tears to get the job done on a daily basis and I hope they recognize the flight's effort."

Although recognized by ACC, the flight's work often goes unnoticed during the base's daily operations, said Sergeant Voigt.

"We are the unsung heroes of the flight line," he said. "As Holloman's POLKAT Scorpions, we provide the venom behind every strike."