KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Energizing all military aircraft and ground vehicles at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, is a big job, essential to creating and sustaining U.S. airpower here.
The 377th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Fuels section handles it 24/7/365.
Charles Matthews-Huffman, the 377th LRS director of operations since 2008, said the Defense Logistics Agency funds the base’s government-owned, contractor-operated fuels function, under the Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants – POL – segment of logistics.
“Our mission is to provide clean, dry fuel to every customer that comes into and out of Kirtland, from generators to jumbo jets,” he said.
The fuels commercial contractor here, TK&K Services, has 14 full-time employees and two part-timers. They, along with two contracting officer representatives who act for the government, make sure the 58th Special Operations Wing’s multiple aircraft types and transient military aircraft, as well as the base’s fleet of ground vehicles and motorized support equipment, have the fuel and deicing fluid they need to operate.
Aircraft fueling at Kirtland AFB relies on the skills of those contract employees, who each hold commercial driver’s licenses, and operate six R-11 6,000-gallon tanker trucks and three C-300 small tanker trucks.
“Unlike other bases that have pantographs – fueling arms that aircraft pull up to and connect to through a hose – flow-throughs, and other things to improve the fuel-servicing capability, everything here is done by truck,” Matthews-Huffman said.
The four types of fuel they dispense are Jet A, diesel, regular gasoline, and E85 gas with ethanol. They no longer handle biodiesel, because it had usability issues and wasn’t cost-effective.
Some revealing numbers help tell the scope and scale of the Kirtland AFB fuels story.
Highlights of jet fuel service on base, from Dec. 1, 2018, to Jan. 31, 2020:
- Total servicings: 8,441
- Total gallons issued: 7,807,677
- Average gallons issued per servicing: 934
- Most amount issued in one servicing: 5,843 gallons
- Least amount issued in one servicing: 3 gallons
The 377th LRS director of operations said that trying to improve the fuel storage and delivery technology is a challenge.
“People don’t think of POL as a critical asset until it starts failing or having issues. It’s significantly costly to upgrade, modify or improve,” Matthews-Huffman said.
Over time, as equipment and industry best practices developed, the Air Force has made some sizable investments in the base’s fuels infrastructure.
“We had probably two of the oldest flat-bottom fuel storage tanks that were still in service in the Air Force. We got those replaced in 2012 for roughly $14 million,” Matthews-Huffman said.
A $9.2 million project, slated to begin in March 2021 and continue in phases for about three years, will sustain, restore and modernize more of the fuels infrastructure and add significant capabilities across the board, according to Timothy Padgett, contracting officer representative.
In addition to providing round-the-clock customer service, environmental protection is a high priority for the fuels operation, as reflected in the system hardware used at the facility.
“Everything’s above ground. There can’t be any leaks that we can’t see. Any time there’s a pressure drop in the system, alarms go off and the system shuts itself down,” Matthews-Huffman said.
Evaluating product quality is another main concern for the fuels function. Employees must frequently analyze samples in an on-site laboratory, and verify their findings every 120 days through sample testing done at an external lab at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
Matthews-Huffman described the most rewarding part of the mission.
“The accomplishments every day – watching everything come in and go out, being serviced with good fuel, on time, quickly.”