ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
On any given day at the 97th Air Mobility Wing, approximately 19 aircrews perform sorties around the clock, utilizing thousands of gallons of fuel in the process. In addition, dozens of vehicles need gas to transport both personnel and supplies to the flightline.
Who provides this tactical supply chain management? The Fuels Service Center (FSC).
The fuel account at Altus Air Force Base is the largest in Air Education and Training Command, with the disbursement of 40 million gallons of aviation fuel annually. The FSC falls under the 97th Fuels Management Flight, which provides clean, dry aviation and ground fuel as well as cryogenics products to support the Air Force's only strategic airlift, aerial delivery and air refueling training programs. To ensure the highest quality of fuel at all times, their fuel lab personnel perform approximately 1,054 fuel samples and 3,000 analyses annually. All of these tasks are managed and scheduled through the FSC.
“Most people think of fuels as the drivers going out and refueling the aircraft, but the career field does a whole lot more than that,” said Tech. Sgt. Austin Overbey, the current NCO in charge of the FSC. “This job takes a special kind of person. Someone who is organized and can troubleshoot.”
The full team consists of two NCOs, a controller, and two accountants. Staff Sgt. Jesse Giffin, who is taking over for Overbey, oversees the office and is responsible for everything that comes through it.
“My job is to annotate all the fuel that we receive and issue to ensure it’s filled out correctly on the paperwork,” said Giffin. “We input all the numbers onto different spreadsheets to make sure we are maintaining our control limits for our fuel. If we drop below or go above, I make adjustments with the ordering.”
As the controller, Senior Airman Devon Muldrow mans the communications systems for the FSC and schedules all fuel operations.
“When I first come in, I have to know where everyone is and make sure we have people in place,” said Muldrow. “If the crash phone rings for any in-flight fuel emergencies, I would be in charge of getting the proper personnel to the aircraft.”
Overbey explained that the controller has to be able to answer questions about the fleet: which aircraft or vehicles are in service, which are out of service, and why. He went on to say that the two accountants on the team, Senior Airman Don Jeffers and Senior Airman Jacob Scarbrough, alternate shifts.
“They look at the books and account for every single gallon on base, which is quite a lot, especially having a base that uses heavy aircraft,” said Overbey.
The importance of the FSC is evidenced by their continued efforts to keep the mission going during a pandemic.
“When COVID-19 hit, we were here receiving trucks of fuel,” said Giffin. “There was still fuel to be sampled, still people that needed gas.”
Giffin said that many days are non-stop and one hiccup could disrupt the training of the aircrew and cost the Air Force thousands of dollars. With all that on the line, trust plays a big factor.
“Some days these phones are going off the hook, all-day long,” said Overbey. “We have to be able to lean on each other for help. I have to trust my team to do every aspect of their job so that it’s easier for me to perform my job.”
Largely operating behind the scenes, it may seem easy to overlook the FSC, but their efforts provide crucial support to the operations of the 97th AMW. As Muldrow put it, “if we’re not on top of our game, it can affect the whole mission.”