Getting personal: Refueling job has upward mobility for airman
Master Sgt. Paul Jacobs, 33, of Culbertson, Mont., is a KC-135 refueling boom operator.
What’s the easiest way to describe what you do for a living?
I have two college graduates drive me to work, and I lay down on my stomach and pass gas. It’s the best job to have as an enlisted guy.
How did you become a boom operator?
I cross-trained in 1997. My previous job was on C-130s. A couple of the engineers were former boom operators and I was looking for a change, so I cross-trained.
How many air-to-air refuelings have you done since you cross trained and what types of aircraft?
Based on sorties, I’d say about 800. I’ve probably refueled every aircraft in the book.
What’s the most unique air-to-air refueling you’ve ever done?
I did Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld’s plane one time.
What was the most difficult?
Probably a B-1 during [Operation] Enduring Freedom. He had just come off his target and was hyped up and a little jittery. Once we got the [fuel] flow started he calmed down.
What’s an “average” refueling mission like?
There is no standard mission, especially here in USAFE. During Afghanistan, if we were the reliability tanker, it’d be 14½ hour missions. For that mission for Secretary Rumsfeld it was an hour and a half.
How long does it take to refuel a C-5 Galaxy?
To put 100,000 pounds of fuel in a C-5 takes about 25 or 30 minutes.
So, you’ve refueled everything from bombers in combat to a top government official’s aircraft. How’s your family feel about the importance of your job?
I don’t think my wife really cares what I do. She’ll say ‘Oh, that’s kind of nice.’ She’s not impressed by me at all.
Do you accept all major credit cards for fuel purchases or just cash?
It’s just done by a fuel receipt. We’ll give gas to anyone we’re told to.
What’s the best part of this job?
Probably that it’s fun. I wake up … and can’t wait to get a shower and come in and go flying. It doesn’t feel like a job.
What’s the toughest part of this job?
Probably the toughest part of being a boom operator is I’ll only be able to do this another 10 years and then I’ll have to find another job. There are no civilian equivalents to this job.
What about gas station attendant?
Maybe. I’m not sure that the pay will be the same.