Airmen participate in Marine exercise

by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais, 18th Wing Public Affairs
Kadena Air Base

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen from Kadena's 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels management flight traveled to Marine Corps Camp Hansen to participate in a field exercise with Marines from the 9th Engineer Support Battalion March 24 through 27.

Five Marines from Camp Hansen are currently embedded with the 18th LRS on Kadena, learning to use equipment they do not have access to on their home base. The 9th ESB invited three Airmen, one staff sergeant and two senior airmen, to Camp Hansen to return the favor.

The exercise simulated the Marine Air-Ground Task Force being forward deployed, with the 9th ESB providing the fuel support for their operations. The 42 Marines and three Airmen participating slept in tents and ate meals, ready to eat as necessary, as opposed to having set meal times, in support of the exercise's 24-hour operations.

"Basically we're setting up a fueling yard," said Staff Sgt. J Mack, 18th LRS fuels hydrants and fixed facilities supervisor. "We run a hose reel from the beach to a booster station, then on to the tank farm."

Personnel participating in the exercise were divided among three zones. Water, in place of fuel for the exercise, was collected at Landing Zone Hawk, pumped at a rate of 600 gallons per minute to LZ Mallard, a booster station designed to maintain pressure within the hoses, and finally deposited at LZ Falcon, a 120,000 gallon "tank farm" where the "fuel" was stored in 20,000 to 50,000 gallon bladders for distribution.

In addition to setting up all the equipment necessary for the exercise, participants set up tents to sleep in and constructed berms, square pits surrounded by dirt levees and covered with tarps, which act as secondary containment in the event of a burst bladder.

"It's a little more in-depth compared to what we usually do (during an exercise or deployment)," Mack said. "We usually move into an established area which is a bare base, versus here where we had nothing to begin with -- we came in with our own equipment and started building from the ground up."

The exercise gave Airmen hands-on experience with equipment they will use in the field that cannot be found on Kadena.

"We're providing Kadena Airmen a glimpse of what bare-base Air Expeditionary Force operations look like," said Master Sgt. Jason Bowman, 18th LRS fuel operations section chief. "We're not equipped with this type of function (on Kadena). All of our assets are hardened for permanent operations."

While Airmen benefitted from the opportunity to train with new equipment, they, along with their Marine counterparts, also gained experience working in a joint environment.

"At some point in our careers we will cross paths with each other," Mack said. "If we start building a bond now, when we go overseas it'll be easier to work together and get the mission done."

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Hodges, Pacific Air Forces chief of fuels and vehicle management, happened to be visiting Kadena during the exercise and traveled to Camp Hansen to see the service members in action. Noting recent budget and manpower cuts, he agreed that joint training is becoming increasingly important.

"In a world of diminishing resources, the only way we're going to be able to survive is to operate with each other and cross-utilize equipment and personnel," Hodges said. "From what I've seen, this exercise has done an absolutely outstanding job of that."

It is this type of initiative in training that has made the 18th LRS fuels management flight one of three finalists for the American Petroleum Institute's best fuels operation in the Air Force. The final results for this award are due to be released in May.

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