Award-winning Kadena unit keeps gas tanks filled and planes flying
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Aircraft come roaring into Kadena Air Base and within 14 minutes, airmen are on the flight line pumping JP-8 fuel into their tanks.
That response time, 16 minutes better than the Air Force’s standard, holds true 99.9 percent of the time for the airmen of 18th Fuels Management Flight, said Senior Master Sgt. Rick Stone, flight chief.
This speedy unit recently made Pacific Air Force history, becoming the first to win the Raymond H. Gross award for Best Fuels Management Operation in PACAF two years in row — 2005 and 2006.
As the largest and busiest fuels flight in the Pacific, the unit’s 120 airmen provide for all the military ground and air fuel needs at Kadena, said Master Sgt. Marc LaMontagne, Fuels Operation section chief.
For 2006, that meant pumping about 74 million gallons of JP-8 fuel, 2.5 million gallons of diesel and 399,000 gallons of unleaded fuel.
The unit operates 24 hours a day. “We close about as often as a Waffle House,” LaMontagne said.
“People think anyone can pump gas,” but it’s also about storing and transporting it, Stone said. He added that the volatility of the substances handled makes the career field inherently dangerous.
And these airmen are more than just gas jockeys.
The flight also has one of the Air Force’s few cryogenics plants and its only one in the Pacific, said Master Sgt. Scott Nielson, Fuels Information Service Center section chief.
Cryogenic materials, stable at extreme temperatures and pressures, are used as lubricants in aircraft, Stone said.
The unit supplies all liquid oxygen and nitrogen needs here, he said, including for welding and medical purposes.
In 2006 alone, the unit produced and issued more than 144,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen from ambient air that had been compressed, cooled and liquefied.
Anything and everything that is required of a fuels specialist, “we do it at Kadena,” Stone said.