TUCSON, Ariz. – When American Soldiers need practice managing the vital fuel that keeps the military mobile, they look to the Arizona Air National Guard for hands-on experience.
It’s not often that Army reserve quartermasters, experts in military logistics and supply, get to transport, store and test JP8 jet fuel for an F-16 Fighting Falcon training mission, but once a year the Soldiers work alongside their Air National Guard counterparts at Tucson International Airport to ensure 73 fighters stay airborne.
From June 16 to 29, several Soldiers of the 418th Quartermaster Battalion along with coordination efforts of the 655th Quartermaster Detachment based in Marana, Ariz., and the 369th Transportation Company in Wichita, Kan., delivered more than 50,000 gallons per day to the 162nd Fighter Wing as part of their annual Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise – or QLLEX.
“Our full-time F-16 mission requires about 54,000 gallons of fuel each day, so here they can get experience and training that impacts daily operations,” said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Larrivas, fuels superintendent for the 162nd Fighter Wing.
“We even take them out to the flightline where they get to drag the fuel hoses to our crew chiefs. I think they like it because they get to see the end result of their work when they see our jets take off.”
The fuel, which is owned and managed by the Defense Logistics Agency Energy, is primarily transported to the wing daily from nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base by civilian contractors. However, DLA Energy teams up with reserve Soldiers during QLLEX to keep them ready to move JP8 should the need for more fuel haulers arise.
“Without being deployed, this as close to what it would be like for us to do our jobs handling fuel overseas,” said Warrant Officer Candidate Melissa Rodriguez of the 655th. “We like this mission, our guys are always excited to work around jets.”
Rodriguez’ team served as quality assurance for DLA during the exercise to prevent spillage, ensure administrative tasks were accomplished correctly, and to verify that each tanker carried the right amount of fuel at 7,000 gallons each.
“We concentrated on the drivers’ training,” said Capt. Joshua Kohler of the 369th. “Hauling a liquid, you can feel it sloshing around. It’s a different experience and for many of our Soldiers, this is their first time.”
The Tucson-based fighters were just one of many customers for this year’s QLLEX. The 161st Air Refueling Wing in Phoenix was one of 10 other sites participating with various quartermaster units around the country.