ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- A coffee mug sits on the desk of Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) (AW) John Coontz.
From the look of it, you can tell it has been used more than once. On the side of the mug it reads, "I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning."
According to Coontz, air department's V-4 divisional leading chief petty officer, the phrase is an attitude and lifestyle for fuel technicians.
Just as coffee could arguably be called the fuel of many aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and essential to functioning, so fuel is vital to many functions essential to Truman's mission. And now that the ship is participating in air strikes in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, even more attention has been placed on getting fuel to the pilots to support their missions.
"We're the lifeblood of the ship," said Coontz. "Planes don't go anywhere without fuel." That may go without saying, but Coontz knows his team plays a key role when it comes to readiness. "Our sole mission is to receive, store and issue jet propulsion (JP-5) fuel to embarked airwing and transiting aircraft."
Since Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced, fuel has stepped into the spotlight more than ever.
Commander, Combined Task Force 60, Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem said the amount of fuel needed everyday to sustain strike packages varies.
"It depends on the aircraft and how much drag you have ... an airplane launching off a carrier, flying at an hour and a half to get to Iraq, tanking back up to go into Iraq, coming out, tanking up to have gas to come home ... it's on the order of three tanks full of gas for the one mission," said Stufflebeem.
That's not to say heavy fuel usage hadn't been anticipated.
"We in fact have planning figures for how much fuel we need for the aircraft to go, and it's a very simple multipliction. We were required to submit what our fuel figures would be - what we thought we would need. I think it's working out pretty close to what we had been asking for," Stufflebeem told reporters at a press conference.
But it's not just aircraft that they provide fuel for, said Coontz.
"We have a pretty broad range of customer service. We provide the fuel for just about anything with an engine."
That includes explosive ordnance disposal, ground support equipment and SEAL team functions, as well as damage control equipment like the P-100 pumps and emergency diesel generators.
When Truman went into action, Coontz and more than 130 other Sailors in V-4 were ready. "I've had previous strike experience, most recently in Kosovo, and the biggest impact this has made on us is using more fuel and putting in longer hours, but that's what we train for."
Long hours aside, being a fuel technician can be a hard dirty job, said Coontz, but his Sailors take a lot of pride in what they do.
"The fuel has to meet certain standards. If those standards aren't met, the engine of an airplane could flame out or the fuel meters could get clogged, possibly making a pilot think there is more fuel available than there really is."
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.