POL: Fueling the fight

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Jesse Brannen
  • 1st SOW Public Affairs
The most visible element of Hurlburt Field and its mission may be the aircraft flying overhead, but this mission wouldn't even get off the ground if there wasn't someone to meet the tremendous fuel requirements it takes to keep Hurlburt running on a day-to-day basis.

This job is in the capable hands of Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants, better known as POL.

It's easy to watch aircraft after aircraft take-off without thinking of the part POL plays. That happens, "because everybody does their job," said to Senior Master Sgt. Dean Abbott, 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron.

POL is responsible for providing clean, dry fuel, and to ensure this is done, they are responsible for sampling all the fuel that is used by base aircraft and vehicles.
They are also responsible for most of their own maintenance.

"Whether it's repairing a fuel pump on one of our trucks or performing operator maintenance on one of our fuel storage facilities, nearly all of it is done in-house," said Sergeant Abbott.

Due to the unique nature of their mission, POL also has their own administration, training, mobility, support, and distribution sections.

It's the only flight in its squadron that performs its own internal compliance and environmental inspections said Sergeant Abbott. Annually, Hurlburt receives and distributes a vast amount of fuel and POL is responsible for every drop.

To manage such a large task, the flight is home to a resource control center which manages incoming fuel, requests for fuel, and the logistics of distributing the fuel to Hurlburt's squadrons.

Even though there are numerous responsibilities in meeting the daily requirements of the entire base, no one has to think twice about whether POL is up to the task.
POL operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Last fiscal year, they issued more than nine million gallons of jet fuel, more than 200,000 gallons of ground fuel, and serviced more than 7,000 aircraft. Additionally, their average response time of just over 11 minutes far outpaced the Air Force standard of 30 minutes.
"This kind of performance is possible because pride and teamwork encompass POL," said Staff Sgt. John Dukes, 1st SOLRS and a member of Forward Area Refueling Point.
It's an Air Force wide family that takes the wingman culture to the next level, and this is evident in FARP.

FARP has a unique and highly specialized mission within POL. A crew of one to three Airmen fly on a C-130 to a forward location and perform nighttime hot-refueling of helicopters that don't have an aerial refueling capability or in areas where the footprint must be reduced as much as possible.

This is no easy task, as quite a few people learned last week.

Hurlburt's FARP crew had the chance on May 11 to hear from a living legend and one of FARP's originators, retired Chief Master Sgt. Richard "Taco" Sanchez.

As part of his visit, several 1st Special Operations Mission Support Group chiefs were invited to participate in a FARP pull, which simulates a small part of the mission a single person FARP crew must perform. It consists of pulling out 300 feet of three-inch hose while geared up in equipment to include a flak vest and helmet.

"You definitely have to be in physical shape," said Chief Master Sgt. Johnnie Jackson, 1st Special Operations Con-tracting Squadron, after the grueling event. "It gives you a better appreciation of what they do.

"What they do is the most dangerous job done across special operations," said Chief Sanchez.

The physical demands and risks involved in the job makes FARP one of the most exclusive clubs in the Air Force.

Anyone who desires to take part has to wait until a spot on the team becomes available, then they have to compete with other candidates for the opportunity to begin the 10-month training process.

Hurlburt is home to 14 of only 42 FARP members across the Air Force. Additionally, Hurlburt's team is unique because it's the only team that supports the entire area of responsibility.

Despite its specialized nature, FARP cannot be separated from POL.

All FARP members are full-time POL and are awarded a special education identifier after they successfully complete all required training.

The relationship between FARP and POL is close, because POL coordinates and adjusts to meet FARP requirements.

Squadrons are required to give 10 days advanced notification for FARP training requirements, but even in no-notice situations, FARP is on 24-hour standby to meet demands.

"They have a mentality that is willing to do whatever it takes," said Tech Sgt. Tony Manis, 1st SOLRS FARP.

"POL is much more than just driving trucks and filling up aircraft," Sergeant Abbott said.
Although operating at a flight level, POL operates as a squadron within a squadron.

"POL will only be a thing of history when they stop flying airplanes," Chief Sanchez said.
Until that time, POL will be on the job making sure aircraft are flying, vehicles are operating, and generators are running.

As one of POL's motto says, "Without POL, you're SOL."