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NEWS | June 20, 2016

Fuel for thought: Like food for Soldiers, fuel for vehicles just as important

By Courtesy Story 372nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT A.P. HILL, VA. - In a 25-square-foot laboratory, three Army Reserve Soldiers of the 475th Quartermaster Group test fuel quality used by vehicles in the 2016 Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise here.

As water is an essential part of operations for Soldiers to drink and clean with, fuel for aircrafts and ground vehicles is just as important.

This QLLEX consists of multiple Quartermaster petroleum and water units operating in various locations providing safe, responsive, on-time petroleum and water support to specified Army Reserve exercises and Department of Defense customers.

Located in the Wilcox Camp of Fort A.P. Hill is a Petroleum Quality Analysis System-Enhanced. It is a mobile lab trailer used by petroleum laboratory specialists for QLLEX to test and measure the quality of fuel used for military aircraft and ground vehicles. Before the fuel is consumed by vehicles, just like a taste tester for food, the PQAS-E tests the quality of the fuel. This is done by the Army Reserve's 475th Quartermaster Group, based out of Farrell, Pa.

Spc. Matthew Hennessey, an Orwell, Ohio, native, and a petroleum laboratory specialist assigned to the 475th Quartermaster Group, said the most important thing they do is their contamination test. “It tells us how much gunk you have in your fuel,” said Hennessey, as he explained the process of the test. “Without these tests aircrafts would fall out of the sky and ground vehicles will break down.”

Hennessey explained that the device used for the contamination test is a Distillation Apparatus. It begins by heating the fuel and it measures at what point it actually boils and starts to evaporate. Normal fuel usually starts boiling at 130 degrees Celsius. Good fuel will have a boiling end point around 212 degrees Celsius. All the fuel in the exercise has to be tested by them. They determine if it is able to be used for aircraft, ground vehicles or generators.  

“Definitely a vital role in this exercise,” said Hennessey when explaining the value of the Distillation Apparatus.

The PQAS-E plays a very vital role in QLLEX, especially when there is over 500,000 gallons of fuel to be used in the exercise. The fuel that is tested and cleared for consumption by aircraft and ground vehicles will be transported to installations at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Gordon, Va.; Fort A.P. Hill, Va.; Fort Lewis, Wash.; and Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Sgt. Chirag Patel, a native of Streetsboro, Ohio, and a petroleum laboratory specialist assigned to the group, said, “When you are lower enlisted, you may think that there isn't an important purpose for the work of the lab. As you reach higher rank and work with senior enlisted and officers, you realize how critical the work is that we accomplish in the lab.”

Patel continued, “Team work is the biggest key to success with our job. We would fail without it. All the labs are communicating and working together for the success of this exercise.”

The PQAS-E does the logistics for the fuel mission. In QLLEX they are using thousands of gallons of fuel at a time. If the PQAS-E determines the fuel is bad, it has to be corrected before the mission can go on.

Patel added, “QLLEX is literally all about fuel. If the fuel is unfit for consumption then there will be no fuel for the mission. As a petroleum laboratory specialist you are one of the biggest parts in exercises like this.”