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POL: Fueling the fight

Airman 1st Class Antonio Herrera, 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum oil and lubricants technician, fills up an R-11 fuel tank truck with jet fuel at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Sept. 17, 2013. The 28th LRS fuels flight produces more than 18 million gallons of quality petroleum products and cryogenic fluids annually for base assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman 1st Class Antonio Herrera, 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum oil and lubricants technician, fills up an R-11 fuel tank truck with jet fuel at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Sept. 17, 2013. The 28th LRS fuels flight produces more than 18 million gallons of quality petroleum products and cryogenic fluids annually for base assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman assigned to the 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum oil and lubricants section fuel B-1 bombers during hot pit refueling at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Sept. 17, 2013. Hot pit refueling is designed to rapidly refuel running aircraft  – resulting in faster aircraft regeneration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman assigned to the 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum oil and lubricants section fuel B-1 bombers during hot pit refueling at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Sept. 17, 2013. Hot pit refueling is designed to rapidly refuel running aircraft – resulting in faster aircraft regeneration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Staff Sgt. Jeffery Quinhoes, 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels service center supervisor, deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., and a native of Bernice, Okla., places a radio in a recharging station in the FSC at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 18, 2013. The FSC tracks inventories to ensure fuel is available to meet air tasking order requirements and maintains accountability of its personnel, which are vital to sustaining operations with the periodic rocket here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

Staff Sgt. Jeffery Quinhoes, 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels service center supervisor, deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., and a native of Bernice, Okla., places a radio in a recharging station in the FSC at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 18, 2013. The FSC tracks inventories to ensure fuel is available to meet air tasking order requirements and maintains accountability of its personnel, which are vital to sustaining operations with the periodic rocket here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Without fuel, B-1 bombers are incapable of taking off from the flightline, much less putting bombs on targets.

The responsibility of providing base bombers - as well as other vital equipment - with the lifeblood they need rests in the hands of the Airmen from the 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum oil and lubricants section.

Staff Sgt. Keith Heimericks, 28th LRS NCO in charge of the fuels laboratory who has been a POL Airman for more than 10 years, said fuels Airmen are responsible for testing, storing, transporting and fueling B-1s.

"Our Airmen do more than just drive a big green truck and pump fuel," Heimericks said. "They are also responsible for purifying and storing serviceable fuel that can later be used for all base aircraft and vehicles."

Staff Sgt. Stephen Yemma, 28th LRS fuels distribution operator, said on any given day, fuels Airmen handle 2.9 million gallons of aircraft fuel and 14,000 gallons of fuel for other equipment on base.

"Our ultimate goal is to train our Airmen to be proficient in performing their duties," Yemma said. "That way, aircrews can focus on the mission - putting bombs on targets."

That focus is crucial at home stations, and while deployed.

Senior Airman Robert Ellis, 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels refueling unit operator deployed from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, attested to the work done down range by POL technicians.

"I think people should know POL is a great job," said Ellis, a native of Gladstone, Mo. "POL is not necessarily physically demanding, it's just meticulous work. We have lots of things to pay close attention to during a fueling operation."

Senior Master Sgt. James Prince, 455th ELRS fuels superintendent, deployed from Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., to Bagram said POL currently issues an average of 5.5 million gallons of fuel each month to more than 5,000 sorties in Bagram, adding that the fuels Airmen there also receive, store and issue cryogenic products, or liquid oxygen.

"We facilitate the movement of tanks to other sites in the AOR (area of responsibility) due to special handling when loading and unloading from aircraft," said Prince, a 19-year Air Force veteran from Newport, Tenn. "Additionally, we have a fuels lab along with personnel on site that are responsible for ensuring we are issuing clean, dry fuel to all of our customers."

At Ellsworth Yemma said the 20 Airmen in POL's six sections - training and support, refueling maintenance, laboratory, distribution, control center, and material - work together to ensure mission objectives are completed effectively and efficiently.

"People's lives are at stake," Heimericks said. "A bad day in POL can cause fatalities on the ground or in the air. That's why we all put our minds together to get the job done."

According to Heimericks fuels Airmen work and train hard to accomplish the mission safely - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Whether accomplishing the mission at home or abroad, Heimericks and his fellow POL Airmen strive to fuel the fires.

He added that some of the most memorable moments in his life have come from being a fuels Airman.

"The thing that has made the biggest impact on my career isn't anything material or physical," said Heimericks. "It's the Airmen. The Airmen are who drive the mission."

(Editor's note: Information in this article was originally released by Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.)

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