Offutt reestablishes fuel system lost in flood, increases capability
By Tech. Sgt. William A. O’Brien, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 18, 2020
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --
For the first time since it was damaged in the March 2019 flood, the Type III Underground Fuel System became operational here June 16, 2020.
The underground fuel system allows personnel to refuel aircraft via an underground constant pressure system that takes it directly from fuel tanks located just south of the flightline.
“The fuels team has done an outstanding job acclimating to post-flood operations,” said Master Sgt. Shelese Garcia, 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Information Service Center Section Chief. “The flood took 90% of fuels capabilities and we have been working diligently to regain normal operations ever since.”
“Bringing back the Type III system has been a huge milestone in this,” Garcia added. “The entire flight came together as a whole to make the re-commissioning of the hydrant system a reality. In this time we were not operations or fuels information service center sections, we were fuels and we were adapting to enhance mission capabilities for Offutt.”
While the system was down, the 55th LRS Fuels Flight was required to use a R-11 refueling truck to fuel aircraft. Using the R-11 refueler has a limited tank capacity and slower fueling speed and requires more POL Airmen to operate it.
“We had to send multiple trucks and vehicle operators to support a single aircraft. This can cause longer wait times for the maintenance crew and a heavier workload for our Airmen,” said Garcia. “Now we will be able to send one vehicle operator in an R-12 to issue to one aircraft.
Refueling times with the hydrant system can go up to 1,000 gallons per minute. It also reduces the man-power per aircraft since we will not have to send multiple trucks.”
Prior to being able to fix the flood waters had to recede. Once that happened, contractors from BAE Systems and Dawson came here, assessed the damaged and fixed the system.
“These fueling systems are not an off the shelf type system. They are specifically built for each base,” explained Garcia. “A good portion of the system was then built by the companies directly for this rebuild. The fuels flight facilitated this the whole way escorting contractors while still moving fuel and meeting Offutt’s mission.”
Being without a type III system for 15 months, new Airmen have arrived here from technical training in that time and now have no experience refueling any way other than with the R-11 trucks. Additionally each system is different, so once the rebuild was complete, the contractors trained the fuels team on how to operate the system.
“Having this system feels awesome. When I first arrived from tech school after the flood I knew we would be operating under other than normal conditions,” said Airman 1st Class Cassandra Saenz, 55th LRS fuels facilities technician. “I kept hearing about how awesome and easy this system would make our job, and now with it up and running I can see all of the benefits and how much easier it truly is. I’m excited to be able to learn a new aspect of fuels with some hands on experience.”
Garcia said her team’s flexibility throughout the time they did not have the type III capability taught them a lot of problem solving and team work skills that helped them grow together and she feels will not only serve them well in the Air Force, but also help them in their lives.
“When I first got orders to Offutt and (searched) the base I was honestly confused as to how I could do my job in a place that’s basically underwater,” said Saenz. “I didn’t know how I could apply the things I learned in tech school in a situation like this. However the flight here is incredible and very knowledgeable. I used to think it was unfortunate I was sent here, now I know it was really a blessing because I’ve learned and seen things most people in the career field have never had to deal with."
“I’m thankful for what I’ve gotten to learn and see and for the leaders who have been placed here that have helped guide me,” Saenz added. “Our job in fuels, and in the LRS squadron is making sure we can get the force to the fight, at the right place and the right time.”