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Fueling the fight: POL’s role in OIR

U.S. Air Force Airman Gabriel Rapp, 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels specialist, delivers fuel to a KC-135 Stratotanker Dec. 12, 2017, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.  Fuels management Airmen work around the clock to ensure that aircraft can fly in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.  (U.S.  Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristan Campbell)

U.S. Air Force Airman Gabriel Rapp, 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels specialist, delivers fuel to a KC-135 Stratotanker Dec. 12, 2017, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Fuels management Airmen work around the clock to ensure that aircraft can fly in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristan Campbell)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

Here at Incirlik Air Base, the sound of an aircraft flying overhead is unmistakable. Who could forget the loud buzz of the A-10 Thunderbolt II engine flying past, or the shadow of a large KC-135 as it takes off to provide fuel to other jets?

Without the 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum, oils and lubricants (POL) flight, there would be no aircraft taking off at all.

“Without fuel, aircraft are just multi-million dollar paper weights,” said Tech. Sgt. Nathan Baxter, NCO in-charge of mobile fuels distribution. “That’s where POL comes in.  We’re responsible for ensuring those aircraft get the right fuel at the right time to support the mission.”

The Airmen of POL are ready to go at a moment’s notice. Incirlik Air Base is a crucial staging and support area for many joint U.S. and NATO aircraft entering and exiting the region, and the fuel support given by POL is critical to Operation Inherent Resolve.

The recent liberation of Raqqa, Syria, is a reflection of POL’s work in fueling the fight.

“Just five minutes [delivery time] can make a difference,” Baxter said.  “If we don’t get that fuel where it needs to go, the pilot can’t do his job.  Those five minutes may be five that somebody else doesn’t have.”

Providing aircraft with gas is critical since planes can’t take off and stay airborne without it. However, the Airmen of POL do much more. They service the whole base, working with government vehicle operators and base aircraft to ensure their safety.

POL Airmen also inspect the fuel to verify its quality and cryogenics to keep the mission flowing smoothly.