FORT LEE, Va. - With more than three decades of knowledge as a petroleum supply specialist, Russell Datts brings an extraordinary level of experience and enthusiasm to the classroom as a civilian contractor who teaches the Petroleum Specialist Reclassification Course at The Army School System Training Center Fort Lee, Virginia.
Working in tandem with his fellow Army Reserve instructors assigned to the 94th Training Division, Datts uses wit and real-world examples to help students understand the course material in a manner that's fun and engaging.
Spc. Kirsten Gray, a student who attended the course in Feb., 2016, said Datts has a way of using humor to get students to understand the material.
"It's part of the way...everyone stays motivated," said Gray, a National Guard Soldier assigned to A Company 257th Brigade Support Battalion, Whitewater, Wis.
Datts encourages soldiers to work together and help each other as they learn. He said, watching them learn new material for the first time is his favorite part of the job.
"When they've got their eyebrows touching like they're lost and then...you give [them new information] in a way they can understand, that light comes on," Datts said. "That's the highlight."
He spent 26 years in the active Army as a petroleum supply specialist, and he's been an instructor at TASS Center-Fort Lee for 13 years. After retiring from the Army, he passed up an opportunity to earn more money in the private sector, and instead chose to give back to the military as an instructor. Dats said, he loves passing his knowledge on to the next generation of refuelers.
During the Course students learn to supervise and manage the reception, storage and shipping of petroleum-based products. They learn to perform their duties in a safe environmentally conscious environment.
On this particular crisp, winter day, the students were in the field at Fort Lee, mastering the fundamentals of fuel testing using specialized kits and implementing techniques they learned in the classroom. The instructors oversaw the process and tested them on their newly-acquired skills.
Datts smiled broadly as each student successfully passed their individual test at his station. He seemed proud to have taught a new crop of petroleum supply specialists who will stand ready to fuel the fight for the U.S. military well into the future.
"That's a blessing...to know...that knowledge has been passed on," Datts said. "The civilian sector? Yes they offered me more money... but the thing of it is, you feel at home here."
"One of our mottos [is] 'Fuel the Fight,'" he added. "The fact is, you can't fight without fuel."