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Game-changing refueling operations for JBLM helicopters

An AH-64 Apache helicopter sits on one of three, hot-fueling pads in front of the new airfield refueling facility on Gray Army Airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Nov. 17. Photo credit: Bud McKay, JBLM Public Affairs

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - A new $25.1 million airfield refueling facility became operational on Gray Army Airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 17. The new facility can refuel Army helicopters on three, hot-fueling pads without the helicopters having to shut down.

The new hot-fueling capability will ultimately save time and increase training missions, according to Col. Derek Smith, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade commander.

"And that saves tax dollars," he said at the ceremony.

The project, which began Oct. 8, 2019, and finished Nov. 16, was managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Seattle District. At the ceremony, Col. Phillip Lamb, JBLM commander thanked the Corps as well as the construction team of Joint Venturer Nisqually Construction and Garco Construction. Lamb also thanked the Installation partners that "helped make this project a reality" - JBLM's Directorate of Public Works, the 16th CAB and the 404th Army Field Support Brigade and 62nd Maintenance Squadron.

The new refueling facility replaces the site that was under construction when it was destroyed in the Great Nisqually Earthquake in 2001, according to Steven Kelley, with the Army Corps of Engineers. That facility was never operational.

Following the Army's decision to station the 16th CAB at JBLM, the Aviation Division along with the 16th CAB Stationing Working Group became the proponent for a replacement Rapid Refuel facility on Gray Army Airfield. JBLM's Aviation Division provided the requirements, overall design and technical expertise throughout the construction of the project.

"It provides a functional, efficient, cost-effective and safe means of fueling Department of Defense and Army equipment, rotary wing aircraft assigned to JBLM," he said. "This includes five brigade combat teams and one aviation brigade."

The fuel storage units include four, 50,000-gallon aviation fuel storage tanks, one 5,000-gallon diesel tank and one 1,000-gallon product recovery tank.

"The diesel system onsite also supports the Airfield Emergency Response Vehicles refueling requirements," said Col. John Rotante, 404th AFSB. commander. "All of this capability reduces the time vehicles will travel and wait for fueling, ultimately optimizing personnel response availability to further benefit mission essential functions at JBLM."

To go along with the new refueling facility, a 1,994-square-foot Fuel Operations Center was constructed with a Petroleum Operations and Laboratory inside. The laboratory will be able to do onsite fuel testing, reducing the out-sourcing monthly fuel testing required by units.

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