CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - For the first time since 1997, Marines with Bulk Fuel Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, began construction of an Amphibious Assault Fuel System aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 2, 2014.
The last time the AAFS was set up it was only capable of transporting 600,000 gallons of fuel. In 1998, after looking at fuel projections, the Marine Corps determined the system would need to provide twice as much fuel to sustain a Marine Expeditionary Force in the future. The newer AAFS allows for the receiving, storage and distribution of 1.3 million gallons of fuel, consisting of a vast layout of 33 fuel bladders, each holding from 20,000 to 50,000 gallons, placed inside earth-berms.
"Typically, the system is designed to come off a ship," said Master Sgt. Christopher Collins, operations chief, Bulk Fuel Company. "The Marines would land at the beach, with the system, and establish the site to construct it."
Fuel is crucial to remaining mobile and operating in expeditionary environments. This system uses a five-mile collapsible hose system to transport the fuel from a ship at sea to the units on shore.
"With this system, we can fuel the entire [MEF]," said Collins, a native of Conroe, Texas. "[Trucks] don't run without fuel. Ships don't run without fuel. Planes don't run without fuel," added the Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who saw the AAFS's critical role, to mission accomplishment, while stationed in Al Asad, Iraq in 2003.Building the AAFS from the ground up in 96 hours was the standard when it transported only 600,000 gallons of fuel. Today, although it is significantly larger, the standard remains the same and according to unit leadership, the primary challenge in the construction of the AAFS is the lack of personnel with the expertise in building it.
"Ninety-eight percent of Marines don't know how this system works," said CW2 Christopher Campbell, platoon commander of Bulk Fuel Co., 7th ESB, 1st MLG. "Most of the Marines have never seen a system of this magnitude, but in a few days, they will start seeing it come together and realize how important, and how big, the AAFS is."
Planning for this exercise took four months and while the setup and breakdown of the bulk fuel system took far less time, according to Campbell, the effects of training and system readiness are crucial to ensuring Marines can operate efficiently and effectively when needed, no matter the mission.
"A perfect example was in Marja," said Campbell, referring to the Afghan city where coalition forces worked to clear out Taliban and drug traffickers. "Not long after the construction of a tactical airfield fuel dispensing system at Forward Operating Base Dwyer, Marja was taken. We literally fueled the fight. This is a prime example of the capabilities that Bulk Fuel Co. provides to the ESB, and the capabilities the ESB brings to support the MEF."