Marines, Airmen fuel up Exercise Northern Edge

6/26/2009 By Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Miller , Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, AK — Pacific Command’s Exercise Northern Edge 2009 is allowing more than 200 aircraft the opportunity to train in nearly 120,000 square miles of airspace above interior Alaska and the Gulf of Alaska, June 15-26.

With the numerous aircraft in the air and massive amounts of mileage to cover during the 11-day exercise, one of the most important support billets the pilots have covering their six is the bulk fuel specialist.

“We’ve pumped nearly a half million gallons of jet fuel per day during the first week of this exercise,” said Senior Airman Derick Bowers, a bulk fuel specialist with the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron here at Eielson Air Force Base. “Without us, pilots are pedestrians.”

Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, currently has Marines cross training and working side-by-side with the Air Force to ensure the pilots are taken care of as expediently and safely as possible.

“There is a little bit of a communication barrier, but it is good to see how other services work,” said Lance Cpl. Justin Moore, MWSS-171 bulk fuel specialist. “It helps diversify my skill set by knowing how to fuel F-16s and F-15s and working with the different forces.”

Because of the differences in lingo, aircraft and overall work atmosphere, the Marines are well-versed before being sent out on the flightline alone.

“We’ve shown them where the fuel points are on the aircraft, as well as trained them on the paperwork, local forms and Air Force forms and fuel receipts,” said Bowers. “Without proper training, lots of expensive equipment can get broken.”

Bowers has served as Moore’s ride-along for the duration of the exercise’s first week.

During the first couple of days the Marines merely shadow the Airmen, watching how they operate on the flightline. For the next three to four days the Marines drive and operate the R-11 fuel trucks with close supervision from their instructors. Next week, which is the final week of the exercise, will be totally different.

“Next week I’ll be all by myself,” Moore said eagerly, knowing this is what he’s been trained for and doing at Iwakuni for quite sometime now, but nevertheless ready to put to work his new skills he’s learned from his Air Force counterparts.

Bowers reiterated his confidence in the Marines’ abilities for next week’s changes, stating that they have adapted and caught on well to the way the Air Force does things.

Of the nearly 9,000 total service members participating in Exercise Northern Edge this year, approximately 290 are Marines and sailors from III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Although the exercise is headquartered out of Elmendorf Air Force Base, activities are taking place across the training grounds of Alaska in order to better prepare joint forces to respond to crises in the Asian Pacific region.

Exercise Northern Edge is Pacific Command’s premier joint training exercise.