CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Since 2001, petroleum professionals, both military and civilian, have been meeting the unending demands for fuel in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. While fuel management does not garner much attention or time in the spotlight, it is an essential mission that keeps things moving.

The 21st century military fuel pipeline works something like this: U.S. Government agencies purchase fuel from refineries in countries within or near the Central Command area of operations. International civilian contractors deliver the fuel in large tanker trucks to distribution points. Some of the most remote forward operating bases get their fuel supplied via air drops.
Multiple agencies collaborate to meet the military's fuel needs. The agencies and personnel include Central Command, Third Army, the Army Petroleum Center, Defense Logistics Agency-Europe, Army Materiel Command and petroleum officers. "These different organizations collectively insure the fuel purchase [and] delivery process is as accurate and current as possible," said Lt. Col. Ronald Childress, chief of Supply and Service, Petroleum and Water Section, 1st Theater Sustainment Command.

Five Soldiers with the 1st TSC's petroleum crew fit into the middle of the big picture by tracking how much fuel is used each day at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. The data on fuel usage, combined with future operations information, create the basis for how other agencies order fuel, explained Staff Sgt. Nicholas Braddock, Noncommissioned Officer in Charge, Bulk Petroleum, 1st TSC.

"We take all the FOBs that are in, let's say Afghanistan or Iraq, and we put them in a big spreadsheet and we average out how much fuel they use ... and kind of project how much fuel they're going to use in the future. We use historical data from years past and current data. So, sometimes you're using 100,000 gallons of fuel a day per FOB, sometimes it's more. Each FOB is different, so you gotta know what's going on with the mission because the mission dictates how much fuel we're gonna use," he said.

The facts and figures keep the mission focused, said Childress. "Our [1st TSC's] relationships probably serve as the most important element in the middle management process."

There are millions of gallons of fuel on the road each day. In fact, at any given time, more than 80 percent of all the contracted trucks driving in the CENTCOM area are moving fuel, according to Braddock. Overall, in 2010, Petroleum specialists have tracked and distributed more than one billion gallons of the essential energy source.

Because fuel is a basic necessity, there is little room for error in the petroleum mission, said Braddock. "Everything runs off of fuel. Everything else runs off of water. So, if we don't do our job correctly, then we can't fight. That's the only way I can look at it."
Working in middle management sheds new light on how the military manages sustainment operations, Braddock said. "This is the first time I've worked in this high of a level. You can see how the big Army works. When you're in a line unit, all you want [to know] is 'when is the fuel getting' here'' ... And here, you see how the overall thing works. It's pretty unique when you see DLA talking to ARCENT and ARCENT talking to the JPOS [Joint Petroleum Officers] and the fuel guys on the ground."

Petroleum managers have a tangible, straightforward way to know if they are fulfilling their mission, according to Braddock. "The way I look at it is when the warfighter gets to the fuel pump and fuel's coming out, that's success. That's as successful as we can be."

Page last updated Tue December 14th, 2010 at 10:15