JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
The 627th Logistic Readiness Squadron Fuels flight provides fuel to the 48 C-17’s at the 62nd Airlift Wing on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, but they do more than deliver the fuel to aircraft, they make missions possible.
The fuels flight provides support to not only our aircraft, our government vehicles, civilian aircraft that land here and deployment rotaters, they also provide support to the President of the United States.
“It’s a cliché, but we always say without fuel, pilots are pedestrians,” said Master Sgt. Keith Grady, 627th LRS fuel operations section chief. “Without fuel these planes can’t get off the ground.
Grady oversees the fuel distribution element and fuel hydrants on base.
“Fuels distribution is in charge of issuing the fuel to the aircraft, transporting liquid oxygen carts as well as filling those carts with liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen,” said Grady.
As far as fuel capabilities go, they have two pump houses, which both can dispense 2,400 gallons each, per minute.
They also have 11 re-fuelers, which have 6,000 gallon tanks that can dispense up to 600 gallons of fuel per minute each.
“On an average day, we deliver between 75,000 to 200,000 gallons of fuel,” Grady said. “That fuel is delivered to anywhere between six and twenty aircraft a day.”
The process for re-fueling starts as a simple phone call from the 62nd Maintenance Group Maintenance Operations Center.
“One of our fuel service center controllers will log that request into our fuels manger defense program and at the same time they’ll dispatch an operator to take a vehicle out,” said Grady. “They will hand a vehicle clip board to that operator, the operator will check the paperwork, go out to the vehicle and do an inspection then drive out to the aircraft.
“They will get marshalled in, hook up the single point, ground and bond the aircraft and do all the preparation to fuel the aircraft.”
Grady said during that time, there’s a lot going on and the fuel distributor is always checking for safety hazards.
“They’re pumping a lot of fuel and very fast,” Grady said. “It can be very dangerous, so they are always checking their environment, but the whole process takes approximately an hour from the time the call comes in.”
Before the fuel enters any aircraft, the fuel must be tested for safety and quality.
Staff. Sgt. Jason Drobish, 627 LRS fuels laboratory NCOIC, does just that.
“We are the first line of defense for any contamination within the fuel,” said Drobish. “At the very first point where the fuel enters the base we sample and test the fuel for any additives and make sure those are within range.”
The fuel comes from a barge that comes from a commercial contractor off base and then it is pumped through a pipe line on base.
“We are constantly testing our equipment throughout the month to make sure that the fuel meets specifications for water and additives,” said Drobish. “We take a gallon sample, run them through some test membranes and we are able to see particular contamination such as sand or dirt or rust – things from the pipes.”
It’s beyond imperative that the fuel is tested and quality controlled.
“It’s an important job,” said Grady. “Just knowing the fuel that were putting on the aircraft is safe allows the plane to operate without any issues emanating from the fuel.”
Providing the life blood to these aircraft, is the mission of the 627th LRS fuels flight and it is a mission they take very seriously.