Every day, Airmen across Luke Air Force Base get their hands dirty to get the mission accomplished.
One of the dirtiest jobs on base may be in the 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron Petroleum, Oil and Lubricant Flight.
Every time a jet takes off, it’s powered by fuel. But where does that fuel come from and how does it make it into the jets?
The POL flight is ready to respond around the clock in order to ensure each jet gets the fuel it needs. Filling up at a gas station is one thing, but putting fuel in a jet is a completely different process, and it can get dirty.
It all starts at the preventive refueling maintenance section where each of the 18 R-11 fuel trucks is inspected to ensure nothing malfunctions while delivering fuel to a jet.
Staff Sgt. Elijah MacLaren, 56th LRS refueling maintenance technician, said repairing the R-11s is the best part of the job.
“I enjoy the challenge of the repairs and the feeling I get when the job is done,” he said. “I also enjoy smelling like jet fuel and walking into a room to see the look on people’s faces as they ask ‘What’s that smell?’ I respond with ‘POL!’”
The R-11s hold up to 6,000 gallons of fuel and can fuel four F-16s at a time. Here at Luke, POL issues about 120,000 gallons of fuel a day, supplying fuel for an average of 51 sorties a day, MacLaren said.
After fuel makes its way from supplier Kinder Morgan in Phoenix to Luke’s storage tanks via pipeline, and before it’s transferred to the trucks it must be tested. Fuel is tested for color, water, solids, conductivity, icing inhibitor and flashpoint.
Once the fuel passes all the tests, it’s transferred into an R-11 and makes its way out to the flightline.
With so much to learn, any new guy would be nervous on his first day, but that wasn’t the case for the newest addition to the POL team, Chief Master Sgt. David Staton, 56th Fighter Wing command chief, who is on a mission to learn the dirtiest jobs on base.
MacLaren showed Staton the ropes and said he was sure after a little bit of practice, Staton would get the hang of it.
“Well, it’s not an easy job to learn” MacLaren said, “but Chief Staton seems like a natural. He was eager and wanted to know everything there is to know about POL. With a little bit of practice, he’d fit right in.”
In Staton’s eyes, POL is a vital part of the 56th Fighter Wing mission.
“What we do here at Luke is extremely important — getting jets in the air and training the world’s finest fighter pilots,” he said. “I want people to understand exactly how those jets get there.”