Sunday, August 9, 2009

I aim to be Madison's million gallon man in Iraq

Staff Sgt. Jason Klingbiel of Madison, Wisconsin, is an Airman deployed 6,400 miles from home at Sather Air Base, west of Baghdad. He is assigned to the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard. Klingbiel says he is on a personal mission to pump more than a million gallons of jet fuel.

Right now, the existing record is approximately 1,006,000 gallons issued in a four month rotation. Records are kept to account for all the fuel issues and receipts, but issue records tend to be kept locally, if anything, to spur a sense of challenge. For me, ersonally, it helps make the deployment go faster, effectively racing the clock.

Often, fuels flights have what are called, "million gallon clubs," where they recognize people who have issued over a million gallons of fuel in a month. Only one person has hit a million gallons over the course of the entire rotation since 2006, and I decided I wanted to reach that million, if not exceed it.

I have one day off during the week. While I have attempted to come into work on my day off, I was immediately sent home (away from my work center) by my supervisor.

Once an aircraft calls in for fuel, the controller is responsible for gathering information such as the type of aircraft, where it's located, how much fuel they want and of what kind, a tail number, and ultimately assigning a truck to a driver to deliver the fuel. The driver arrives at the aircraft, arranges for payment in U.S. dollars if the aircraft does not have an agreement with the Defense Energy Support Center, and pumps the fuel. Once the fuel issue is accounted for, the truck can be sent to the fill stand, the R-14, to refill. Other tasks within this career field include the superintendent, who is effectively in charge; lab, who is responsible for the purity of the fuel, which is tested weekly on each tank/bladder, fill stand, and truck, along with sampling every incoming shipment of fuel prior to acceptance; and cryogenics, who is responsible for refilling the 50 gallon liquid oxygen carts which then are used to support the breathing oxygen systems on the aircraft and possibly liquid nitrogen, which is used for the aircraft tires and struts.

The R-14 is actually a trailer-mounted hydrant system, in that it can be fully packed up and airlifted out of the area when it's no longer needed. Included on the physical R-14 itself are two inlet connections, a pump, filter separator, meter, and outlet valves for an 1.5 inch over wing hose, or a pair of 3 inch diameter hoses for pressure refueling (as seen in the photo).

What I like most about what I do is working with the different aircraft. I have worked not just with U.S. aircraft, but also some from the former Soviet Union, still with their original Aeroflot stripes. It's entertaining, when you begin to service a given aircraft, and maybe one or two people from the crew barely know English. Often, the easiest means to communicate is by way of a calculator, as they show how much fuel they need, you show them your price sheet, and they would then point to the amount they want. If they are not U.S. aircraft, the transaction is done in cash, U.S. dollars, often totaling into the thousands of dollars.

I've been with the Wisconsin Air National Guard since August 2008. Prior I enlisted for six years in the Active Duty Air Force, where I was stationed at Aviano Air Base in Italy, and Holloman AFB, New Mexico. On the civilian side, I work as a line service technician at Dane County Regional Airport, for Wisconsin Aviation.

Most of my family lives in the Madison/Dane County area, my grandparents live in Lodi on Lake Wisconsin, and I have an uncle and aunt that live in Barneveld.

- Jason

Photo - Staff Sgt. Jason Klingbiel, 447th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operator, connects a fuel hose from an R14 fuel unit to the bottom loader of his R11 fuel truck at Sather Air Base in Iraq on July 20, 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar)