AL ASAD, Iraq -- Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 272, based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., are keeping Al Asad’s fuel supply flowing, or rolling in their case.
The Untouchables of MWSS-272’s fueling section trucker crews provide a rolling fuel depot with nonstop service for all Al Asad’s aircraft and generators. Two 12-Marine teams alternate 24-hour shifts to ensure the power is on and the engines are turning nonstop.
“They deliver fuel directly to the jets or generators, from our storage pits straight to the customers,” said Gunnery Sgt. William A. Hunter, MWSS-272’s assistant fuels chief and Glens Falls, N.Y., native. “We service everything on the flightline, Marine Corps, Army, civilian. We try to give them the best possible product and services.”
The Marines’ mission is not as simple as gassing up a few jets, helicopters and generators. Many of the Marines were originally trained for motor transport then trained as refueler operators to handle the heavy workload.
“We handle every part of the job, from filling the trucks at the storage pits to filling the aircraft out on the line,” said Cpl. Joseph Daum, a driver turned refueler and Los Angeles native.
The Marines have made customer service a priority from top to bottom, said Staff Sgt. Joseph Gamlin, one of two Untouchable truck team leaders.
“Our main goal is to deliver fuel efficiently and in a timely manner,” said the Greenfield, Mass., native. “But doing that is really a concentrated between a lot of different commodities. It’s not just the drivers out there, we have to keep the trucks up and running with maintenance.”
The workload can swing from one extreme to another, but keeping the gear and Marines ready for the mission is a constant, said Gamlin.
“The workload depends on the day,” Gamlin said. “We have days when we can’t keep a truck here, the Marines only have time to stop for chow we bring out to the shop. During downtime, we make sure the Marines get plenty of rest, try to keep them as comfortable as possible.”
Servicing a joint flightline like Al Asad can put the Marines in situations they have only faced in training. The Marines prepared for the deployment by working at Weapons and Tactics Instructor course and Exercise Desert Talon, both held at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. The advanced training helped the Marines adjust their mindset from stateside missions to the challenges they would face during a deployment, said Sgt. Felix A. Lora, a refueler operator and Bronx, N.Y., native.
“Our mission out here is totally different,” Lora said. “There is a lot of administrative work, inventory and maintenance to look after. But, out here we actually get to do our jobs. I really enjoy it because you get to work with a lot of different aircraft and meet different people. It is like a nonstop learning and doing environment here.”
Another essential mission controlled by the truck crews is the upkeep of more than 60 generators across the base. Crucial generators are spread across the base, keeping the lights on in the Tactical Air Command Center and the radars running in the Air Traffic Control tower, among others.
“I’m responsible for making sure the generators don’t run out of fuel,” said Sgt. Mike Miranda, ground fuel team leader and Orlando, Fla., native. “I make daily rounds, constantly keeping tabs on the levels at each site. Some generators need 200 to 300 gallons so I may have to bring the truck back to the storage pits and refill it before I continue my rounds.”
Failure to complete this mission is not an option for Miranda, an augment to the Untouchables from MWSS-273, based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.
“I know I am responsible for keeping all of the important operation centers on this base running,” said Miranda, who served as a chief dispatcher for the motor transport section with the Sweathogs of ’273 . “This is a completely different job for me here. Marines here have taught me a lot.”
The Marines are constantly finding new things to learn and teach, said Hunter.
“I really try to impress on them the idea that learning never stops, especially out here,” Hunter said. “That is one area outside of their day-to-day work they have embraced. There is always something new to learn out here, and the Marines are eager for the knowledge. I think I even learn something new every day, spending time with the junior Marines.”
Whether rushing fuel to a waiting aircraft or keeping the power flowing into the nerve center of the base, the truck crews are always focused on mission accomplishment, said Gamlin.
“They are doing exceptionally well,” Gamlin said. “They are really good operators who believe in getting the job done, and that is exactly what this mission demands.”