By Spc. Howard Alperin, MND-B PAOSeptember 10, 2009
BAGHDAD - Radar and satellite equipment beep and flash, as information flicker across computer screens used for base defense.
Standing amid the state of the art technology, one might forget that all of the equipment would come to a shuddering halt without the assistance from a group of Maverick troops, here.
The fuel supply specialists from Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division know they have done their part to provide the generator power that protects Victory Base Complex, Iraq. Generators are necessary in the places where power lines don't reach and it is up to the fuel supply specialists to keep those generators fueled and running.
"It's an important job as far as daily operations go," said Spc. Thomas Lyons, a fuel supply specialist, from Akron, Ohio. "If you ever hear 'Incoming!', one of the reasons you hear it, is because there is fuel there to run the radars."
Every day, Soldiers from the DSTB are up early making their rounds delivering fuel to key points throughout VBC. Besides running satellite equipment used for signal operations, the generators are responsible for general electricity and air conditioning, added Lyons.
Each fueling point is critical for the overall operations of VBC and each point requires fuelers to be constantly aware of hazards.
As Lyons uncoils the hose to the fuel nozzle at the first stop on their daily run, he explained the first responsibility on any fuel point is to prevent any kind of static electricity from popping up.
"We're always watching for fire hazards," said Spc. Israel Cruz, a fuel supply specialist from Floresville, Texas. "Safety is our main concern."
"We watch for anything that might cause sparks because the fuel is highly [combustible]," said Lyons, assigned to Headquarters Support Company, DSTB, 1st Cavalry Division.
Twenty minutes later, at another fueling point, a still smoldering burn pit was positioned too close.
"Sometimes people don't think or don't realize what they are doing," said Cruz, assigned to HSC, DSTB. "We're also real careful about any kind of cigarettes being around."
The fuelers are at their job shortly after the break of dawn, as temperatures are cooler and it reduces the risk of fire. Between the fourth and fifth fuel points, the weather becomes a topic of interest.
"Our flashpoint is 100 degrees Fahrenheit, this is when the danger is that much higher," said Lyons. The flashpoint doesn't mean fuel will catch fire at 100 degrees, it means it is much more combustible at that temperature, he added.
After filling dozens of five-gallon containers and carrying them to their delivery points, the daily functions for these Soldiers can seem mundane. It could be easy to lose focus, but they are motivated to keep the base safe and make sure missions stay on target.
"Since January, we've issued over 100,000 gallons of fuel," said Cruz.
These fuelers know the importance of the role they play with operations on Victory Base Complex and take it in stride. There's not a lot of glory in what they do, yet they do it every day with precision and safety as the priority.