by Staff Sgt. Wes Wright
JBER Public Affairs
6/15/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The
Air Force recently recognized the 673rd Logistics Readiness Squadron's
Fuels Management Flight as the best in the Air Force after the flight
was named the winner of the 2014 American Petroleum Institute Award.
"The award is like winning the Super Bowl, World Series and Stanley Cup
all at one time," said 673rd LRS commander, Lt. Col. John Harris.
The award recognizes the wing having the best fuels management
operation, and includes the facility, equipment and vehicle support from
outside the fuels management flight.
In order to beat out the competition, composed of the best major command
fuels management flights from across the Air Force, the men and women
of the fuels management flight knew their work was cut out for them.
Their performance during the competition timeline produced no fewer than
40 bullets in their entry form. Air Force officials referred to the
unit as "a clear cut winner" across three judged sections: direct
mission support, innovative management and quality of life programs.
Senior Master Sgt. Ron Crowl, 673rd LRS Fuels Management Flight chief,
one of the architects of the award package, said the award of this
magnitude is special because for many Airmen, it can be a one-time
"You don't win this type of award every day," Crowl said. "It says a
lot. Based on the criteria and grading scale, it is no easy task to try
and encapsulate everything this flight does, and does well, in 40 lines
on an Air Force Form 1206. These Airmen knock it out of the park every
day, and I had plenty of outstanding accomplishments to work with."
The squadron's commander was particularly proud of what the flight did
to secure funding for new and improved infrastructure, which was a major
bullet in their award package.
"They lobbied for, and got funding for, a truck offload facility, which
increases our capability to receive fuel," Harris said. "Most recently,
they lobbied for and got funding for a new $7 million operations
facility that strategically locates this flight closer to its customer
base. That improves our mission capability exponentially. I'm so proud
of what they have been able to accomplish."
While their accomplishments are too many to list, some of the highlights
included managing the movement of more than 400 million gallons of fuel
between home station and deployed locations, saving the Air Force
millions of dollars by using innovative practices and procedures,
crafting the Air Force's first-ever F-22 Raptor Forward Area Refueling
Point plan, and much more.
According to Crowl, what makes the flight's achievements even more
impressive is that the flight operates out of three geographically
separated areas, which is atypical of standard fuels operations. JBER is
larger than any base in the Pacific Air Forces in terms of sheer
All the other PACAF bases combined would fit within JBER's fence line, making logistics a high hurdle to clear.
In addition to the geographical size of JBER, the diverse joint base
mission sets also provide a scale reference to the volume and pace of
work the fuels management flight brings to the installation.
"It is a challenge from a command and control standpoint," Crowl said. "But these guys make it look easy."
Another challenge the fuels management flight regularly overcomes is the subarctic conditions.
"It gets very cold on this flightline and it makes it really difficult
to do our job," said Airman 1st Class Levi Roark, 673rd LRS fixed
facilities technician. "We face the challenge of not only being cold and
wet ourselves, but the elements also affect the fuels infrastructure.
We have to keep things from breaking and maintain our response times at
the same time. It's difficult, but we've maintained and overcome. We
have the best fuels flight in the Air Force to show for it."
However, according to Harris, there's something far more important that sets this flight apart.
"I could tell you about how we support more than 80 aircraft, while
ensuring the inventory of more than 12 million gallons of fuel, all
while battling arctic conditions," Harris said. "Or, I could tell you
about the important missions we support, like NORAD's combat-alert cell
that ensures our territorial integrity, or the Air National Guard's
alert and C-130 mission; or perhaps the C-17 airdrop mission standing by
at a moment's notice to deliver Pacific Command's only airborne combat
capability anywhere in theater. While all of these are important, what
really sets this flight apart is its strategic vision and its heart."
Harris said JBER's fuels flight is unique in its leaders' ability to
look beyond the day-to-day tactical mission of launching jets and
develop a strategic vision to make the operation and the flight better
for future Airmen.
"But perhaps the true key to success for this flight is it's a family,"
Harris said. "This flight rallies around its Airmen in an unbelievable
way. The level of morale here and the way these Airmen look after each
other is breathtaking."
Airmen of the squadron echoed their commander's sentiment.
"When I got to the JBER fuels flight, I knew I was part of an awesome
team," said Master Sgt. Elizabeth Warren, 673rd LRS Fuels Environmental
Safety Office noncommissioned officer in charge. "I'm really glad the
rest of the Air Force knows it now, too."
Roark said the closeness and "we're a family" spirit that permeates the flight makes the award personal to each member.
"There's really no words to explain how great it feels," Roark said. "As
hard as we work, my team, my brothers and sisters, all the sweat, blood
and tears ... we are hard workers who love to work, because we work for
each other. We work for family. There's a saying I learned here that
has always stuck with me. 'Just as metal sharpens metal, so does one man
sharpen another,' and that says a lot about this flight."
Harris also pointed out that while the award was given to the Fuels Management Flight, they didn't win it in a vacuum.
"While this fuels flight earned and deserved this award, they didn't do
it alone," Harris explained. "Our refueler maintenance section in the
Vehicle Management Flight makes sure the fuel trucks are up and running
365 days a year.
Another key component is the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron's water fuels
maintenance team. They make sure the fuels infrastructure is running
top of the line, which is key to making sure we can get fuel from point A
to point B. This was a total team effort from all across our squadron
and supporting units."
Harris said it's difficult to properly encapsulate the character of the
fuels management flight but that one thing was clear, "At the end of the
day, these guys epitomize JBER's motto: Arctic tough and family
strong," he said.