Selfridge Fuels Shop Supports Joint Operations

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
No matter the pattern of the uniform or the paint scheme of the aircraft, the fuels shop at Selfridge Air National Guard Base has one goal in mind: customer service.

"We try to treat everyone like a customer," said Master Sgt. Carlo Vettraino, noncommissioned officer in charge of the fuels shop, a part of the 127th Logistics Readiness Squadron. "We have to be pretty darn flexible with all the different missions and hours of operation that exist on this base."

The Fuels section operates with about 18 enlisted personnel, operating in the 2F0X1 Air Force Specialty Code. While the fuels section at Selfridge is part of the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard and is staffed by Airmen, Vettraino said he views the fuels shop as more of a base support unit.

"In addition to the Wing's aircraft, we also provide fuel to the Customs and Border Protection's aircraft, the Army's helicopters and ground fuels used by TACOM, the Marines and other customers," he said. "They may have different missions, but we try to provide the same level of service to all of them."

The Selfridge ground fuelers are probably most identifiable by their primary piece of equipment, the R-11 refueling truck, which has been the primary ground fuels vehicle in use in the Air Force since the early 1990s. The large green R-11s hold a maximum capacity of 6,000 gallons and are able to issue fuel at a rate of up to 600 gallons per minute.

Vettraino said that even with the various changes in aircraft assigned to Selfridge over the years, fuel consumption levels have stayed fairly constant. Not surprisingly, the thirstiest aircraft at Selfridge for the 127th LRS' JP-8 fuel - or "jet propellant 8" - are the KC-135 Stratotankers flown by the 127th Air Refueling Group. Depending on the KC-135's mission, it may take four or five loads from the R-11s to fully fill the Stratotanker's belly.

Like most ground fuel specialists, Senior Airman Joseph Fournier attended his technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base in northern Texas after he first joined the Michigan Air National Guard about four years ago. More senior fuels specialists attended their tech school at the former Chanute Air Force Base in central Illinois, which closed in 1993. The initial 3-level, or apprentice level, training for ground fuelers lasts about 31 training days.

"I like the job, there's always something going on," Fournier said, after returning to the fuels shop from topping off an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft with about 1,400 gallons of JP-8.

Fournier said one of his most challenging experiences as a fuels specialist in the Guard was working at a fuel bladder farm at a base in Kyrgyzstan in central Asia for four months. Kyrgyzstan is a major staging area for operations in Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel flow through the base on a daily basis. The bladders are essentially giant rubber bags that can hold thousands of gallons of jet fuel. The bladders and related pumping systems are operated by ground fuels specialists.

"We saw every type of aircraft flying in and out of that base," Fournier said.

In addition to delivering and storing jet fuel, ground fuel and related products, the fuels section is responsible for ensuring that their fuel is both "clean" and "dry." Clean refers to ensure that there are no particles of any kind of solid contaminant in the fuel. Dry refers to ensuring that there is no water in the fuel. To do this, the fuels shop runs its own test laboratory and fuels specialists collect samples from their trucks and storage tanks on a regular basis.

"I enjoy my job," said Fournier. "We stay pretty busy and we interact with just about every aircraft that comes through Selfridge."