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Flight behind the fight: POL

Flight behind the fight (U.S. Air Force graphic by Tech. Sgt. Shawn Monk) (Released by Capt. Dicie Hritz)

Flight behind the fight

PITTSBURGH -- Since 2003, the 171st has flown approximately 23,000 Bravo missions and offloaded more than 80 million gallons of fuel supporting missions abroad.

The POL (Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants) flight, processes every gallon of fuel that is offloaded from the Pittsburgh fleet.

"I can honestly say we're the busiest guard unit in the country," said Senior Master Sgt. John Statzer, fuels superintendent.

Supporting the 'Air Bridge' or Bravo mission, along with the Alpha alert line and other daily missions, POL processes an average of one million gallons of fuel a month. Members staff the shop for 19 hours everyday to keep up with the workload.

In addition to their Air Force training, flight members bring additional skills to complete the mission.

"I think if you look around, a lot of us come from different backgrounds or work areas," said Staff. Sgt. Dominique Clerkley.

As a traditional, Clerkley was manager for Ashland Oil Company. He said he developed leadership skills in his civilian career that helped him excel as the support manager for the flight.

Clerkley is responsible for the flight members' training and readiness because he said deployment experience is an integral part of the flight's success.

"The guys we have here deployed overseas numerous times, so when we have a new Airman in the shop, we can share our experiences here and abroad."

Staff Sgt. Donald Lewis is responsible for the accountability of incoming and outgoing fuel.

"Attention to detail is crucial to keeping track of our resources," said Lewis. Ensuring the fuel quality is also one of the most important of their daily tasks.

"If a plane was to go down, the first thing to look at would be the quality of the fuel," said Lewis.

Statzer said, it's the younger Airmen of POL that are the future of the flight. Currently the oldest member of the flight was born in 1958. By 2018, there will be a 100 percent turnover and oldest POL member will have been born in 1975.