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Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants: Fueling the Force

An Airman stands on the left as he fuels a CV-22 Osprey

Airman 1st Class Daniel Sage, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron lead preventative maintenance technician, stands by while fueling a CV-22 Osprey at Cannon Air Force Base N.M., Jan. 5, 2021. While waiting for the aircraft to finish fueling, fuels airman must keep their hand on the “dead man” handle, keeping tension. If tension is lost, fuel will cease to continue pumping into the plane. This is a safety measure to keep the aircraft from over-fueling in case of emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gage Daniel)

A truck sits center screen as it offloads fuel for Cannon Air Force Base

A fuel truck sits at a fueling station, offloading gasoline at Cannon Air Force Base N.M., Jan. 5, 2021. An Airman from the fuels shop will collect a gasoline sample to test in their laboratory to ensure it meets fuel quality standards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gage Daniel)

An Airman mixes fuel with another solution to check its quality

Staff Sgt. Ricardo Abundes, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels lab non-commissioned officer in charge, runs a quality fuel test at Cannon Air Force Base N.M., Jan. 5, 2021. Fuel tests are done every day on received fuel to ensure it meets fuel quality standards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gage Daniel)

An Airman swirls a jar of fuel while doing a visual test of its quality

Staff Sgt. Ricardo Abundes, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels lab non-commissioned officer in charge, takes fuel sample at Cannon Air Force Base N.M., Jan. 5, 2021. Upon the arrival of the first fuel truck of the day, a fuel shop Airman must collect a sample to test in the lab as well as do an on-site visual test of the fuel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gage Daniel)

An Airman writes down notes during his lab testing of fuel

Staff Sgt. Ricardo Abundes, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels lab non-commissioned officer in charge, writes notes while sampling fuel at Cannon Air Force Base N.M., Jan. 5, 2021. Fuel tests are done every day on received fuel to ensure it meets fuel quality standards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gage Daniel)

An Airman pulls out a hose to fuel a plane

Airman 1st Class Kaleb Baxter, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution technician, prepares to pump gas into a plane at Cannon Air Force Base N.M., Jan. 5, 2021. Before fueling, a variety of safety measures must be taken, including flipping the correct switches and maintaining tension on the gas-pump handle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gage Daniel)

An Airman stands center screen over fuel pipes while taking notes regarding the fuel

Airman 1st Class Daniel Sage, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron lead preventative maintenance technician, prepares to fast load a CV-22 Osprey with gasoline at Cannon Air Force Base N.M., Jan. 5, 2021. Hot-picking is the term used when an aircraft is fueled with its engine still running. This is for a fast turn around to allow the aircraft to swiftly return to the air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gage Daniel)

Two Airman standby as the wait for a plane to land so they can refuel it

Staff Sgt. Ricardo Abundes, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels lab non-commissioned officer in charge, prepares to take a cart of liquid oxygen to an aircraft at Cannon Air Force Base N.M., Jan. 5, 2021. Liquid oxygen is used in the aircraft, mixed with other compounds and chemicals, as a propellant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gage Daniel)

An Airman pushes a cart towards a plane before refueling it

Staff Sgt. Ricardo Abundes, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels lab non-commissioned officer in charge, takes a cart of liquid oxygen to an aircraft at Cannon Air Force Base N.M., Jan. 5, 2021. Liquid oxygen is used in aircraft, mixed with other compounds and chemicals, as a propellant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gage Daniel)

An Airman pushes a metal pipe in place to fuel a plane
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Airman 1st Class Daniel Sage, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron lead preventative maintenance technician, assists in hooking up a fuel line to a CV-22 Osprey for fast gasoline load at Cannon Air Force Base N.M., Jan. 5, 2021. Hot-picking is the term used when an aircraft is fueled with its engine still running. This is for a fast turn around to allow the aircraft to swiftly return to the air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gage Daniel)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

 

It’s 6:57 A.M., three minutes before your alarm clock is set to go off, but you woke up early to the hum of a CV-22 Osprey starting up it’s engine and an AC-130W Stinger II barreling down the runway. This doesn’t happen every day, but it’s not uncommon either. The only difference in today is that you stopped to ask yourself “where does our base get all the fuel to run this show, and what kind of processes does that involve.” Unless of course, you’re a POL Airman.

 

“POL stands for petroleum, oils and lubricants,” said Staff Sgt. Ricardo Abundes, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron, fuels lab non-commissioned officer in charge. “If it flies or if it drives, it received fuel from us in one way or another.”

 

Fueling the Air Force begins with POL receiving an aviation truck receipt every morning (and later in the afternoon) and it hooks up to the fuel reception system that sends the fuel to Cannon’s on-base fuel storage tanks.

 

“During the first fuel receipt of the day, a fuels laboratory technician will do a visual examination as well as collecting a sample of fuel to test in the lab,” said Senior Airman Kien Luong, 27 SOLRS, fuels knowledge operations.

 

Once the fuel sample has been collected, the individual heads back to the lab for testing. Imagine beakers exchanging fluids, the soft purr of machines running diagnostic tests, and one mad scientist running a sci-fi-esque science lab.

 

“Regarding the lab, I’m basically a chemist,” Abundes said enthusiastically. “The testing mainly consists of running a fuel sample through a filter, checking for debris, and from there we run tests with some of our machines that check for the correct percentages of all the additives and solutions, ensuring our product is complying with the fuel standards.”

 

From there, assuming all is well with the lab samples, the POL office waits for the call for fuel, and delivers.

 

“We get calls all day,” Luong said. “There’s a reason we have three shifts in our shop. Once we receive a call, we’ll send out an Airman to meet the request.”

 

Once the Airman arrives on scene, a series of precautions are taken as well as setting everything up, from the plane receiving fuel, to the truck dispensing it.

 

“A couple wires are hooked up, switches are twisted, turned and flipped, the hose is dragged to the aircraft and the fuel is dispensed,” Abundes said. “A cool thing some people might not know is the POL Airman, while fueling, holds something called ‘the deadman.’ They maintain tension on this handle the entire time, allowing the fuel to flow. If they release, fuel stops fueling, as it is the fastest way to terminate fuel flow. This is in case something were to happen to the refueler, fuel would cease to pump and keep the plane from over-filling.”

 

Fuel is something we all rely on, believe it or not, and without it, the Air Force mission simply would not get done.

 

“The mission? It doesn’t happen without us, obviously,” Abundes snickered. “Fuel carries aircraft into the sky, so you could say we carry the weight of the Air Force on our backs.”