MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
“Lab,” an Airman calls over the radio. “Control to call lab,” responds the receiver. “Your vehicle is en route,” says the responder as new fuel arrives for quality control. “Copy,” says the receiver as he prepares for processing a batch of fuel.
Fueling an F-16 Fighting Falcon is not simple as pumping gas into a car. One small piece of the process, but arguably the most critical, is the 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels laboratory personnel.
Fuels lab technicians oversee the Jet Propellant 8 fuel by serving as a control point to ensure quality fuel is ready for the Team Misawa mission.
“The pilots are counting on us to make sure their fuel is good while they’re flying,” said Senior Airman Ken Leon Guerrero, a 35th LRS fuels technician. “Lives can be lost without what we do.”
Getting fuel in a jet is anything but simple, according to Troy Farris, a 35th LRS fuels laboratory technician lead.
“We are the first and last line of defense for the aircraft,” Farris said. “We go out and check the [untouched incoming fuel] and everything before it gets into the systems, and although there is a lot of redundancy in the process, it definitely helps catch and prevent anything from contaminating the fuel.”
When testing the fuel, the personnel use lab equipment to verify any particulate materials that could jeopardize the mission.
“When the fuel comes in, it goes through a micronic filter,” Farris explained. “These filters separate the particulate matter and water from the fuel to give us the purest and cleanest fuel we need.”
Also during this time, all the additives required for a safe flight are measured and certified for reliability.
“Our fuel already comes with additives that we need,” Farris said. “The FZZY additive ensures the fuel doesn’t freeze during flight, because when an aircraft goes into higher altitudes the temperature drops.”
He said to verify the fuel quality is suitable for the aircraft, whether it’s going into tanks or distribution trucks, it is filtered many times with every transition it makes.
“Although the job can be dull, it doesn’t bother me because I have a good teammate,” Farris said speaking about his partner, Senior Airman Ken Leon Guerrero, a 35th LRS fuels laboratory technician. “We have very good flow and rapport with each other. We know each time we test our fuel we have given the machines a good product and we have certified it for use.”
Although the shop’s priority is the JP-8 fuel, they also handle all other fuel that comes through the base.
“We are responsible for any petroleum products that come on base. We run quality control and we confirm what we ordered is what we are getting and it’s safe to use,” Farris said.
Both members said they are happy about their jobs and take pride in what they do for the Air Force mission.
“Beyond the equipment, our job is important because of the lives the aircraft carry,” Leon Guerrero said. “It takes a keen eye and you want to pick your best people to handle something so crucial to the mission because it is a heavy weight of responsibility.”
As the aircraft goes off, fliers can rest assured their plane is good to go. “We all have people we know who are pilots,” Farris added. “Every time I see an aircraft take-off, I know I did my job correctly.”