Grissom fuels training leaves no Airman behind

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Harrison Withrow
  • 434th ARW Public Affairs
The inside of a fuel tank can be a hazardous work environment, but Grissom’s fuels team practices to ensure that every Airman who goes into a KC-135R Stratotanker fuel tank makes it back out.

Master Sgt. Evan Heintz, 434th Maintenance Squadron fuel systems supervisor, oversaw the exercise, designed to ensure proper safety techniques are being used.

“We repair and maintain everything in the aircraft that deals with fuel storage and delivery,” said Heintz. “Often that involves working inside confined spaces.”

The exercise, which involved MXS, Grissom’s fire department and biological/environmental safety inspectors, evaluated maintainers on their ability to safely remove an injured Airman from a confined space and the response time of Grissom’s emergency teams.

“Everyone involved did an excellent job this time around,” said Heintz. “We even saw an improvement in some areas over our previous exercise, so I’m very pleased with the results.”

For the exercise, a training dummy was placed inside of the fuel tank of a KC-135R. The exercise team removed the dummy from the fuel tank and carried it outside the hangar where members of the Grissom fire department arrived shortly after.

“Whenever something like this happens, where somebody is inside the aircraft and they don’t respond, we go to our emergency response plan,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Davin, 434th MXS aircraft fuels system technician. “This means that somebody goes to contact emergency services while I or another team member stay and wait outside the aircraft until they get back.”

It’s critical that someone be outside the aircraft at all times, he said.

“You can’t just go in their after the guy without somebody outside to monitor the situation,” said Davin. “If you dive in to pull somebody out without someone watching your back, and you become incapacitated in their too, you won’t be able to get help.”

Because of these risks, maintainers always work in teams whenever confined spaces are involved, said Davin. Despite the hazardous conditions, however, Grissom Airmen have an excellent record when it comes to confined space safety.

“I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and we’ve never had to jump in and rescue someone for real,” he said. “Still, it’s important to always be ready because we can’t afford to be caught off-guard the first time it does happen.”

For Davin and the rest of the fuels system technicians, this type of exercise has become second nature, he said.

“Everyone here has seen or done this multiple times, so it’s really nothing new for us,” said Davin. “I’m confident that all of us have a high level of competency when it comes to the emergency response plan.”