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One Airman's point of view: POL is mission ready, willing and able

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joshua Nokes
  • 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron
Jan. 13 started off like any other routine night at work. I arrived for C-Shift duty at Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants, received the daily safety briefing and then relieved the B-Shift workers. The mission was slow, so I took the chance to catch up on e-mail and the nightly news in our distribution lounge. That's when I first heard of the previous day's earthquake in Haiti.

The newscaster mentioned that the 82nd Airborne would lead support for the relief efforts. I know that our primary mission is to support the 82nd Airborne Division, so I knew that our current ops tempo was about to change. The next day everything seemed to stay the same, but the flying mission did start getting somewhat busier. That was until Sunday, Jan. 17.

I woke up that afternoon in a very good mood being that it would have been my third night off work for the three-day weekend. My day was uneventful, and that night I stayed up to try to maintain my normal sleep schedule before going back to work the next night.

It was about midnight and I was playing Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox 360. My interactive combat skills were sharper than ever and I was just about to reach level 70 when the phone rang. What timing, I have the enemy in my sights and reality has to step in and slow me down. I answered the phone and it was my supervisor on the other end informing me that the shop was converting to 12-hour shifts to support the Haiti relief efforts. I had to report to work as soon as possible. I knew that level 70 had to wait and got ready to head to work.

I arrived at the shop and POL was buzzing with activity. Half of POL reported to work and we were gathered together and briefed by our management team of what was happening. The 82nd Abn. Div. needed to get to Haiti and that would not happen without POL support. This was not an exercise; this was the real thing, and the success of this humanitarian mission laid heavily on our shoulders. Failure was not an option.

It didn't take long for POL to get into full swing and the flightline was filling quickly with aircraft. I have never seen Pope so busy. I refueled one plane after another with jet fuel and with the exception of several slow moments, we maintained a steady rhythm. As a POL distribution operator, I was used to being this busy while deployed and during Joint Forceable Entry exercises, but this felt different. I really felt a deepened sense of pride knowing that I was part of making this happen. Every time an aircraft landed, soldiers and cargo were loaded. I knew that the fuel in my truck was going to power them to Haiti and the Haitians were desperate for help.

The work hours were long and this was the first time I have not seen or been around my wife on a normal basis. But, now that the mission has slowed down and we have gone back regular shifts, I feel total joy and pride knowing that my shop and I were a big part in Operation Unified Response. The 82nd Abn. Div. and its cargo would have never left the ground if it wasn't for the 1.3 million gallons of jet fuel that we issued to the aircraft. POL pulled together as a team and succeeded.

According to recent news broadcasts, the Haitian people continue to struggle and what they once knew as a normal life will take a long time to get back to. Hopefully our contribution is making a difference and their struggle has been lessened. Usually when I experience long hours and that kind of stress and work, I don't like it. But, when I look back on what we accomplished and how much support we gave, I know we pulled off a job that few could have ever achieved and it's still not over. I now fully understand how what I do is critical to the 43rd Airlift Wing mission!

It is nice being back on regular shifts and my wife is happy to have me around again. Modern Warfare 2 level 70, here I come.