August 11, 2017

Mobility Guardian provides valuable C-130 hot defueling training

Airman 1st Class Erin McClellan
JB Lewis-McChord, Wash.

Airman 1st Class Tyler Holt, right, and Staff Sgt. George Childres, both 41st Airlift Squadron, loadmasters, walk through the process of hot defueling the C-130J Super Hercules during Exercise Mobility Guardian at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Aug. 3, 2017.

Mobility Guardian is offering training in many Mobility capabilities, including one that is unfamiliar to many Airmen due to its scarce use in recent years, hot defueling.

Hot defueling involves offloading fuel from an aircraft while the engines are running and transferring it to other fuel-storage containers.
Normally practiced using C-130 Hercules aircraft, the fuel is then primarily used for helicopters at forward operating bases.

While ground transportation is the cheapest and easiest way to move fuel, some locations are less secure and alternate delivery methods are necessary.

“The reason we tend to do it is to supply fuel to frontline fighters,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chad Hurt, 39th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. “It’s for the people at austere forward operating bases that are more of a high-risk area where you wouldn’t want to truck it in. This isn’t a method we would use at a bigger, built-up area because there’s no need for it.” 

Hot defueling isn’t a new practice. It was fairly common at the beginning of the Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, but was used much less once supply lines were built up, said U.S. Air Force Capt. Bill Blumhoefer, 39th AS chief of training and Mobility Guardian C-130J instructor pilot. With closures of FOBs and disruptions of the supply chain in recent years, it’s been making a comeback.

“I’d never offloaded fuel or even fueled an aircraft while running the engines before,” said Blumhoefer of his first hot defueling experience. “It’s a lot more dangerous, and we did it at night at a FOB with minimum security in a location we hadn’t been in a long time. There are just a lot of things to consider when you’re doing a mission like that, especially when you don’t do it often. The first time I ever saw it was operationally.”

Hot defueling is performed by the pilots and loadmasters of an aircraft, as well as fuels Airmen on the ground. Airmen must be qualified prior to completing a hot defueling mission, and it’s important to qualify as many people as possible now that the task is being carried out more often. Mobility Guardian offered an opportunity to complete that training for many Airmen.

“Since it’s growing in popularity right now, there are a lot of people hearing about it, but not a lot of people have experience,” said Hurt. “Here, we have a lot of people who haven’t been exposed to it, and now we’re showing them a new method and increasing our readiness capabilities. 

“The more people you have trained on it, the less restricted we are on who we can send to do those types of missions so we don’t have to wait for a specific crew to do it,” he continued. “With deployment operations the way they are, somebody learning it today could potentially be out the door in four months doing it in the desert.”

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