Fueling the Pacific

  • Published
  • By Amn Jarrett Smith
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Aircraft land at Yokota Air Base almost every day, serving as the busiest transportation hub in the Western Indo-Pacific and servicing aircraft from all over the world.

But aircraft can’t get here without help. An important part of getting planes to where they need to go, is fueling them up. The Fuels Distribution Center at Yokota Air Base helps refuel 5,300 different aircraft that operate at or transit through the installation.

The 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels management flight is responsible for storing, testing, and distributing roughly 18 million gallons of fuel every year. With help from 74 employees, including Japanese nationals and service members, and 38 fleet vehicles, the job gets done.

“We are the busiest fuel hub here in Pacific Air Forces,” said Tech. Sgt. Patrick Boyle, 374th LRS fuels management flight NCOIC of fuels distribution. “If we stopped operations, aircraft wouldn’t be able to take off and we would basically be at a standstill.”

The fuels management flight, also known as petroleum, oils, and lubricants or POL, refuels planes from everywhere that arrive on base. From aircraft assigned to Yokota, to aircraft from other U.S. military bases or countries, some planes land here to stay, while others will land here to refuel and takeoff to their next destination.

The 36th Airlift Squadron participated in a New Year’s Jump exercise Jan. 8, supporting a multilateral group of more than 150 paratroopers during the event.  The fuels management team was vital to ensure the aircraft were prepared for the joint mission.

“What I do to prepare is review the flying schedule, see what’s coming in and if there’s an influx of aircraft, I move my Airmen around to what needs to be refueled,” Boyle said. “We are also sure to work with our lab which tests the fuel to guarantee that it is good to go.”

The fuels management lab tests fuel to make certain aircraft can be operated safely. They have a variety of equipment to conduct different tests such as determining how much dust or debris is in the fuel.

“We maintain all of the fuel and fuel dispensing equipment in our flight,” said Senior Airman Michael Sandor, 374th LRS fuels management flight fuels laboratory technician. “We test it, make sure it’s up to our standards, and if something wasn’t right, we would lock out the fuel so it won't be used.”

The fuels management team is tasked with supporting all sorts of different missions at Yokota and play a vital role in day-to-day operations toward the defense of Japan and the Indo-Pacific region. At the end of the day, the mission can’t be accomplished without fuel.