ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Airmen from units deployed in support of Cope North 13 transported an R-11 refueling truck on a C-130 Hercules aircraft from here to Rota Island Feb. 13, to recover a Navy F/A-18 Hornet that diverted there due to weather a day prior. With the combined effort of Airmen from the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 36th Airlift Squadron, temporarily assigned here from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and the 36th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 734th Air Mobility Squadron, the refueling truck was transported to Rota and successfully refueled the diverted F/A-18 aircraft that was also here in support of Cope North. The truck transport was necessary due to the absence of refueling facilities on Rota that can accommodate fighter aircraft. As a result of the weather conditions during the mission, the F/A-18 pilots did not have the option of diverting to an appropriatley equipped location.
"There is not a drop of jet fuel on Rota," said Senior Master Sgt. Kasey Saunders, the 36th LRS NCO in charge of fuels distribution. "There were civilian aircraft, but those don't run on the same fuel as our aircraft, and the only way to refuel an F/A-18 is with a refueling truck." Maj. Nicole Fuller, the 36th LRS commander, said this is the first time the 36th LRS provided this type of refueling support. A lot of coordination and adjustments had to be made in order to make the transport happen.
"Emergency situations like these don't happen very often," Fuller said. "The first truck we had was too big and heavy. Instead of putting it in a larger aircraft, we got a smaller refueling truck and removed nonessential parts to make sure it was within the allowable cabin load.
"Once we got the truck there, the plan was to offload the truck from the C-130, and transfer fuel from the C-130 to the truck," she said. "We then uploaded fuel from the truck into the F/A-18, and reloaded the truck back into the C-130, which then returned to Andersen (AFB)." The truck had to be transported empty for weight and safety purposes. The C-130 then had to make another trip to transport additional equipment that had to be flown to Rota to transfer fuel from the C-130 to the refueling truck. "In more convenient situations, aircraft divert to airfields with more facilities, however, that is not always the case," Fuller said. "If we do have to do it again, from this experience, we'll be better and more prepared in supporting such emergencies in the future." With the number of units involved in the successful recovery of the F/A-18, the operation was a testament to the effective interoperability between bases, branches of service and regional partners within the Asia-Pacific.