99th LRS refueling maintenance keeps Nellis AFB flowing

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum

Staff Sgt. Spencer Hardesty (right), 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron firetruck/refueling truck mechanic, goes over the maintenance schedule for the R-12 refueling truck with Senior Airman Christopher Clanton, 99th LRS firetruck and refueling truck mechanic, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 16. In the 2016 fiscal year, the maintenance unit is already responsible for 22 million gallons of fuel pumped, supporting 11,000 sorties.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — When it comes to the members of the 99th Logistics Readiness refueling maintenance unit, hard work is not an option, it’s a necessity.
This small team, usually made up of four Airmen and one civilian contractor, has the vital mission of supporting flight line activity by performing bumper to bumper maintenance on the refueling trucks to make sure they are in service and ready to go out to the flight line at any time.
“Our mission revolves around the flight line and making sure we do our part to help keep the planes in the air,” said Senior Airman Jacob Marjama, 99th LRS firetruck and refueling truck mechanic. “It’s a behind the scenes type mission as most people don’t see the refueling trucks on the flight line refueling the planes. Without fuel there wouldn’t be any sorties, so it’s important to make sure that we support the 99th LRS fuels maintenance flight by making sure the refueling trucks are accessible to them and that they are in service and available for them.”
In the 2016 fiscal year, the maintenance unit is already responsible for 22 million gallons of fuel pumped, supporting 11,000 sorties. During Red Flag 16-1 they were responsible for 8.4 million gallons of fuel pumped, supporting 4,200 sorties.
These staggering numbers show just how important the refueling maintenance unit is to the flying missions that take place at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
“How the process works is that we are responsible for any vehicle maintenance on the refueler trucks and we work with the fuel maintenance flight hand in hand as they communicate with us and help us out by letting us know what problems the driver noticed when operating the truck,” said Marjama. “Operator documentation is then filled out that tells us what problems the truck is having and we get right on it and try to fix the issue as quickly as possible so the truck can be serviceable.”
The refueling maintenance unit primarily works maintenance on the R-11, R-12 and C300 refueling trucks.
“The R-11 is our bread and butter for supporting the mission,” said Marjama. “We have 37 R-11’s and they get the most usage out of all the refueling trucks. That is why we have so many of them.”
The Kovatch R-11 refueling truck carries an aluminum tank with 6,000 gallons of jet fuel. It has an electronically-controlled pump and the pumping compartment is located behind the cab and is used for refueling most aircraft on the flight line.
The R-12’s are mainly used for bigger aircraft, such as a C130, that require a lot of fuel. The R-12 doesn’t have a tank, but it has hose that hooks into the fuel tanks located underneath the flight line.
The C300 is a refueling truck that is used for all refueling needs outside of the flight line for Nellis AFB.
“We have such a huge mission at Nellis AFB,” said Staff Sgt. Spencer Hardesty, 99th LRS fire truck and refueling truck mechanic. “Doing preventative maintenance is probably the most important part of our mission. We have a lot of trucks but something like Red Flag and Green Flag occur so you have to make sure we have as many serviceable trucks as possible.”
Even though the maintenance team performs preventative measures to make sure the refueling trucks remain serviceable, there are still unforeseen problems that arise that must be taken care of. The 99th LRS Maintenance Unit has the training and tools to take care of any problem as swiftly as possible.
“The most difficult task is when something is ‘hard broke’,” said Hardesty. “Let’s say the auxiliary throttle isn’t working properly on a truck. Depending on the type of maintenance that is needed to fix this problem, it could be a one-day fix or it could take a couple months before it can be fixed. When something is hard broke it takes away from our capability so it is important to work as quickly as possible to get the truck up and running again.”
When maintenance needs to be performed the team relies on the tools they have in the shop and most importantly rely on each other.
“Teamwork is the most important thing,” said Marjama. “Communication between us is vital to the mission and making sure the trucks not only get service, but stay in service. We want to prevent them from having to come into the shop for maintenance as much as possible so that they can be out there supporting the flying missions.”
Even though the maintenance unit is small and is responsible for a vast number of vehicle maintenance fixes, they are a well-trained, disciplined, and motivated team that shows pride in their work and are always ready to get the job done no matter what it is.
“Regardless of what we are doing we are working hard and giving 110 percent to make sure that the mission we are supporting has what they need,” said Marjama.