8 Airmen assist and advise 11 fuel farms in Iraq
April 10, 2009
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - The 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)'s Air Force Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants Detachment here provides assistance and advice to the Army's command and conducts staff assistance visits to support operations at fuel sites across Iraq.
The POL detachment provides their expertise to ensure workers at fuel sites are conducting operations to the Defense Energy Support Center and Department of Defense and Army regulations accountability, maintenance and safety standards.
Air Force Master Sgt. Keith Acres, a POL detachment teamleader, and native of Lexington Park, Md., said the POL detachment is often seen as inspectors, but we are actually just there to provide assistance.
The Air Force POL detachment has eight Airmen to accomplish its mission. They send out small teams to visit 11 fuel farms, which consist of bags containing between 50,000 and 210,000 gallons of fuel.
Arriving at each site, the Airmen provide an in-brief and agenda for their visits to inform the workers on what they will be doing at the base. They then proceed to the fuel farm to analyze the bases fuel operations.
First, they check the physical layout of the bag farm, confirming the bags are being well maintained and the fuel is being properly accounted for. The Airmen look at records as far back as two years. Fuel fraud was stopped and the thieves apprehended because of these records. These records also bring attention to possible leaks or spills of fuel.
"For the amount of fuel that goes through here, operations not only would grind to a halt but have ground to a halt when fuel (operations) aren't done correctly," said Maj. William W. Wenzel, of Austin, Texas, and the commander of the POL detachment.
The POL detachment also looks at the safety aspect of these farms. They check to make sure workers are wearing proper personal protective equipment such as eye protection, gloves and hearing protection. They also make sure the surroundings are safe by ensuring there is no equipment causing sparks or smoking areas nearby.
The Airmen also look to see what precautions are set in place for any mishaps. They check material safety data sheets to ensure there is information of every product used at the sites. They look at spill plans and spill kits, as well as, inspect eye wash and shower stations. Spill plans are plans of action in the event of a spill of hazardous material.
According to Wenzel, one of the more impressive facts about this detachment is a majority of them have never worked together before this deployment. The Air Force service members are working together to support an Army command while overseeing DOD capitalized fuel.
"I think our greatest achievement is being able to pick up the challenge of going into these sites and giving them a very thorough examination without having done it before," Wenzel said. "That's a testament to the expertise of the enlisted force on this team."