Fueling the flight line, U.S. Airmen support Turkish government humanitarian mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Peter Reft
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Airmen assigned to the 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL) Flight work around the clock to support the global rush of humanitarian aid and disaster relief aircraft transiting through Incirlik Air Base.

Since the Feb. 6 earthquakes occurred, POL Airmen have supplied more than 1 million gallons of jet fuel distributed for humanitarian efforts, during which more than 4,000 aircraft sorties carrying over 18,000 tons of cargo have transited through the airfield of Incirlik AB. This fuel enables the U.S. military to rapidly respond with critically needed capabilities and life-saving equipment to aid areas the government of Türkiye deems necessary.

“Any aircraft on this base gets fuel from us,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Simms, a fuels facilities noncommissioned officer in charge assigned to the 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “We help to keep those planes flying, taking that cargo to people in need. We’re also providing fuel to Turkish people brought onto base for heat generators as well as all the logistics vehicles.”

Simms works with Turkish suppliers to ensure that storage tanks remain continuously filled with available gas, enabling the 39th LRS to respond immediately to any request for fuel across the base.

Tech. Sgt. Kevin Kelly, a fuels laboratory NCO in charge assigned to the 39th LRS said the POL Airmen have been excelling in their fuel distribution duties, while supporting a 200 to 400 percent surge in aircraft sorties.

“They’re getting to see how our flight is helping the humanitarian aid and relief mission, and it’s a big boost in their morale,” said Kelly.

In addition to remaining capable to reliably respond to POL requests, the fuels distribution Airmen found themselves in the ideal readiness posture to support the unexpected.

“Just prior to all this going off, barely a month’s time, we completed our certification for hot refueling which reduces ground time for aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Austin Overbey, a fuels distribution NCO in charge assigned to the 39th LRS.
“The U.S. Army task force [flying the CH-47 Chinook] requested that we do hot refueling for them in order to support their humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.”

According to Overbey, hot refueling is a specialized refueling operation that involves transfer of fuel from a non-aircraft source into an aircraft with one or more running engines, providing minimum aircraft turnaround time and reducing personnel and equipment support requirements. For safety and situational awareness in proximity of high-volume air intake and thrust propulsion systems, Airmen must be specifically trained and certified for this expedited process.

Overbey explained that the Airmen who just completed training and had fresh memory of proof-of-concept plans for hot fueling received requests from Army pilots to execute this capability in real life on a same-day notice when the humanitarian mission started.

“We’ve done pretty well so far, and this is generally how an Air Force base normally would operate back in the U.S., so we already had the capability to respond immediately to the mission,” said Simms. “This is what we are used to doing.”

While Simms stays busy managing nine pump houses and 37 storage tanks of JP-8 jet fuel, Kelly oversees jet fuel analysis for reliability.

“We’re the first line of defense for all fuel coming onto this base, so we ensure the integrity and specification for all the different fuels used by everybody on base,” said Kelly.

From behind the scenes, fuels laboratory Airmen support Turkish air force humanitarian operations in unique ways.

“During one of these humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions, the Turkish air force requested us to test the fuel in one of their helicopters that was out there in the disaster area,” said Kelly. “They took samples from the aircraft, delivered those to us here at Incirlik, we tested it on the spot, and immediately sent them back the fuel analysis results.”

According to Kelly, despite a significant volume of aircraft transiting through the base daily during peak disaster relief operations, while also continuing to support routine Turkish Air Force operations, the 39th LRS POL Flight Airmen mastered their mission with high spirits.