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Offutt reestablishes fuel system lost in flood, increases capability

A team looks on as an aircraft is refueled.

For the first time since it was damaged in the March 2019 flood, the Type III Underground Fuel System was used operationally here June 17, 2020 as part of a demonstration of the reestablished capability. The Type III 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. 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 fuels Airmen to operate it.

an Airman connects a large hose to an aircraft.

An Airman connects a fuel hose to an aircraft on the flightline here June 16, 2020 as part of a demonstration of the reestablished capability to fuel aircraft using an R-12 truck and the Type III Underground Fuel System. This was the first fueling done this way since the type III system was damaged in the 2019 flood. While the system was down, the 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Flight was required to use R-11 refueling trucks to fuel aircraft. Using the R-11 refueler has a limited tank capacity and slower fueling speed and requires more fuels Airmen to operate it.

An Airman refuels an aircraft.

Airman 1st Class William Copeland 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels preventative maintenance, refuels an aircraft using an R-12 refueling truck and a Type III Underground Fuel System June 16, 2020. 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.

An Airmen pulls a hose from an R-12 refueling truck to the Type III Underground Fuel System.

Airman 1st Class William Copeland 55th Logistic Readiness Squadron fuels preventative maintenance, drags a hose from an R-12 refueling truck to the Type III Underground Fuel System during a demonstration June 16, 2020. 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 man it.

an airman connects a large fueling hose to an aircraft.

An Airman connects a hose from an R-12 refueling truck to an E4-B June 16, 2020, as part of the first operational refueling using the Type III Underground Fuel System since it was damaged in the March 2019 flood. While the system was down, the 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron 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 Airmen to operate it.

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 Type III 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.”