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POL behind the scenes: Fueling the refuelers

Airman 1st Class Jose Arredondo, 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum, oils and lubricants apprentice, performs an inspection on a fuel hose, July 19, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Arredondo checked the hose to ensure there were no cracks in it. These inspections are performed daily to guarantee there are no faults with the fueling equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Bernal Del Agua)

Airman 1st Class Jose Arredondo, 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum, oils and lubricants apprentice, performs an inspection on a fuel hose, July 19, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Arredondo checked the hose to ensure there were no cracks in it. These inspections are performed daily to guarantee there are no faults with the fueling equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Bernal Del Agua)

Airman 1st Class Jose Arredondo, 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum, oils and lubricants apprentice, connects a fuel hose to a hydrant, July 19, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. This test needs to be done daily to ensure the fuel being transferred to KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft is clean and serviceable. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Bernal Del Agua)

Airman 1st Class Jose Arredondo, 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum, oils and lubricants apprentice, connects a fuel hose to a hydrant, July 19, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. This test needs to be done daily to ensure the fuel being transferred to KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft is clean and serviceable. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Bernal Del Agua)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- When it comes to air refueling, tankers and aircrews receive all the attention.

A small shop belonging to the 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron here is in charge of refueling all the KC-135s that call McConnell’s flightline home. They’re the petroleum, oils and lubricants flight.

“The guys I have here are really great individuals, and in the end, it’s them making the whole flight work,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Pearsall, 22nd LRS fuels management superintendent. “This is a refueling wing at McConnell, so ultimately, we make this base run. If we don’t have fuel here, we have no mission.”

There are four main components to the flight, which help the 22nd Air Refueling Wing accomplish its mission. The first component is the control center, where all fuel operations are assigned to the Airmen who fuel the aircraft.

“One of the major things we do here is the accounting for all the fuel transactions on base,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Bauman, 22nd LRS fuels service center NCO in-charge. “Any fuel that is moved, whether it’s on the ground or in-air refueling, we’ll take care of that. We also deal with receiving fuel to make sure the base has enough to issue to the aircraft.”

McConnell receives around 1.6 million gallons of fuel a month from its outside contractor using underground pipelines. This fuel is immediately inspected by the second component, the fuels lab.

“We test it when it first gets here from the pipeline, then we also test it monthly,” said Staff Sgt. Terell Douglas, 22nd LRS fuels base lab supervisor. “There’s also different requirements for each hydrant system we have. We run five tests here on the fuel to make sure it is up to the standards of the Air Force to give aircraft the best possible flight.”

After the fuels lab has inspected the fuel, contractors, the third component, store it in hydrant facilities. The rest of the process is left to the fourth component, the drivers.

“We perform checks every morning on the fuel and the trucks, which is important because if we have contaminated fuel, the aircraft engines can break,” said Airman 1st Class Jose Arredondo, 22nd LRS POL apprentice. “If the trucks don’t work then we can’t refuel the planes, and if the planes aren’t refueled then they can’t fly. That would be total mission failure.”

But mission failure is not something McConnell is known for and neither is the POL flight. They stick together to refuel the fight.

For sergeant Pearsall, the way of life for POL is having his brothers and sisters’ backs and taking care of each other.