Fueling ACE operations from afar
By Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Sutton
/ Published August 01, 2021
TINIAN, Northern Mariana Islands (AFNS) --
Airmen from across two U.S. Air Force major commands are working together over the next few weeks in order to practice dynamic force employment operations.
Specifically, petroleum, oil and lubricant experts will spend the next few weeks preparing to refuel aircraft from across the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command's area of responsibility.
"Our team is here practicing new operations and concepts while ensuring the smallest footprint possible to actively accomplish our mission," said Tech. Sgt. Patrick Barlow, 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron deployed from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, acting fuels section chief. "Our number one priority is to safely provide fuel support to our mission partners during operation Pacific Iron."
Barlow arrived on Tinian early and began operating in a multi-capable Airmen role immediately.
"Along with being responsible for my POL team here, part of being a cross-functional team means I am also the acting on-ground liaison ensuring all units are communicating and mission-ready. This is just one example that demonstrates the MCA skill set which allows us to be more agile and flexible when performing operations."
Barlow is coordinating operations with five Air units on Tinian as well as local government officials in order to make the mission successful for the whole force.
The team worked for days in scorching heat and torrential downpours to ensure the equipment is operational for when aircraft arrive.
"This team is actually brought together from different bases but from the same career field," said Staff Sgt. Darren Albrecht, 36gth LRS fuel operations supervisor. "We are all learning from each other and operating as multi-capable Airmen. This is one of the more challenging operations we have done, so our team coming together and working so cohesively, so quickly, has made this a really rewarding experience."
The ability for small groups of Airmen to refuel aircraft using bulk fuel bladders from any location assists the use of agile combat operations generating resilient airpower in contested environments.
According to Barlow, having the capability to arrive at a location and be operational within 24 hours is key to achieving the main goal.
"We are using the fuel bladder to store the fuel we receive and then are able to deliver it to any aircraft who comes into our area of operations and requires it," he said.
Albrecht further explained by saying that getting equipment set up in a short amount of time is essential to air superiority so the aircraft can get back into the air and take the fight to the enemy anytime, anywhere.
"This is such a unique opportunity to practice these skills," he said. "Tinian is a beautiful island and the local residents are so friendly and helpful. We really appreciate their hospitality and are taking advantage of this chance to perform such a dynamic and challenging mission."
Being able to get fuel across the USINDOPACOM theater of operations is important due to its vast size. The command’s area of responsibility is more than 100 million square miles, or roughly 52% of the Earth’s surface, stretching from the west coast of the United States, to the west coast of India, and from the Arctic to the Antarctic, making this an important capability.
"I'm excited to take these experiences, concepts, and lessons back to Mountain Home Air Force Base and pass them on to the Airmen there," Albrecht said. "This helps us to ensure long-term warfighting readiness around the globe."