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Active, reserve Airman pump out fuels mission while deployed

Airman 1st Class Miriah Campbell prepares to gas up an A-10 Thunderbolt II on the flightline at a desert air base in the Arabian Gulf Region. Campbell is fuels specialist with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Photo by Master Sgt. Stefan Alford

Editor's note: Master Sgt. Aaron Kennedy is assigned to the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron when home at MacDill.

At home station, active-duty and reserve Airmen meet infrequently, at best. The difference between most reservists' dual civilian-military life, and active members' total Air Force immersion, is normally quite clear.

That difference disappears in a deployed environment, and the 376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron's petroleum, oils and lubricants flight is a perfect example. You'd be hard-pressed to distinguish between the 15 reservists and 20 active troops who make up the POL team. Squadron members themselves fell into a harmonious working relationship right at the start of AEF 5/6.

"It's been a smooth transition with the reserve guys," said Master Sgt. Aaron Kennedy, operations superintendent. "They know what they came here for and they fit right in."

Sergeant Kennedy is an active-duty member from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and works hand-in-hand with reservist Senior Master Sgt. James Holland to place POL troops in appropriate job positions. Those positions cover everything from distribution and storage to truck-driving, service-station work and aircraft refueling. While some jobs, like the lab technician, are pre-filled specialty codes, Sergeants Kennedy and Holland place everyone else according to experience.

According to Sergeant Kennedy, the fuel storage area is a common training area for young troops. The fuel is kept in nine large tanks, or "bladders," that average 200-thousand gallons. The storage area is also where fuel trucks are re-filled. A lot of the storage-area work has been cut from the six-week POL technical school, so Airmen's training records are signed off during their stay here.

"A lot of the younger troops will work in storage for a while to learn about the equipment, and then they'll drive; we switch them out," explained Sergeant Kennedy. "We have 1.7-million gallons of fuel," he added. "Our job here is to refuel all the aircraft - the transients and the ones stationed here.

Senior Airman Denise Lopez, who works as a driver, is one of those young airmen in training. Airman Lopez, like the rest of the fuels reservists, is based at Carswell Air Reserve Station, Texas, with the 301st Fuels Management Flight. She enlisted three years ago, but after basic training and tech. school at Wichita Falls, Texas, took off her uniform and jumped back into civilian life. Airman Lopez is currently a photography student at the University of Texas at Arlington. She said despite the differences between her civilian studies and military job, she immediately fell into place on the flightline.

"It's kind of like riding a bike," she said of her fuels job. "Once you learn it, you don't forget it."

This is Airman Lopez's first overseas deployment, though she has been TDY numerous times in the states. Her reserve flight has a notable deployment schedule. Since 9-11, the group has performed more than 9,000 active days, and deployed to places like Iraq, Spain and Diego Garcia in support of the Global War on Terror. Flight members come from a wide variety of civilian jobs; careers range from engineering to information technology and mail carrier service.

"As a reservist, it's kind of like a get-away from civilian life," said Airman Lopez. "I'm enjoying it because I get to see how life is for active-duty people. I'm living it."

Indeed, she's "living it" enough that an onlooker can't decipher her reserve status. As Airman Lopez pointed out, "We're all in the same Air Force," a statement proven both by the successful effort of the POL team, and the joint-service and joint-nation mission accomplishment at Manas.

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