Airmen, Soldiers practice emergency response during DLA fuel spill prevention, response training

Staff Sgt. Justin Ratcliffe,  an NCO in charge of fuels fixed facilities with the 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, points to safety valves and introduces students to safety measures and procedures at a government vehicle fuel station at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, July 22, 2020. The introduction to the station and its fuel spill mitigation measures was part of a Defense Logistics Agency and 509th Civil Engineer Squadron  spill response and mitigation course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

Staff Sgt. Justin Ratcliffe, an NCO in charge of fuels fixed facilities with the 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, introduces students to safety measures and procedures at a government vehicle fuel station at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, July 22, 2020. The introduction to the station and its fuel spill mitigation measures was part of a Defense Logistics Agency and 509th Civil Engineer Squadron spill response and mitigation course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

A fuel emergency shut-off switch near a government vehicle fuel station at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, July 22, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

A fuel emergency shut-off switch near a government vehicle fuel station at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, July 22, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

Tracy Taylor, Defense Logistics Agency Energy instructor, gives an introduction to a two-day spill prevention and response training course at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, July 21, 2020. The course reviewed important environmental protection mandates and spill mitigation and emergency response techniques for service members and contractors who frequently handle or transport petroleum fuels or other hazardous materials on the installation. DLA instructors visit various installations to oversee training and exercises to ensure compliance with federal safety and environmental protection regulations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

Tracy Taylor, Defense Logistics Agency Energy instructor, gives an introduction to a two-day spill prevention and response training course at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, July 21, 2020. The course reviewed important environmental protection mandates and spill mitigation and emergency response techniques for service members and contractors who frequently handle or transport petroleum fuels or other hazardous materials on the installation. DLA instructors visit various installations to oversee training and exercises to ensure compliance with federal safety and environmental protection regulations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

Students of a spill response course walk into a fuel storage and distribution facility July 22, 2020, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. Conducted in cooperation between the Defense Logistics Agency, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron and 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, the course reviewed important spill mitigation and prevention actions and introduced attendees to fuel handling protocols and safety measures at Whiteman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

Participants of a spill response course walk into a fuel storage and distribution facility July 22, 2020, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. Conducted in cooperation between the Defense Logistics Agency, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron and 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, the course reviewed important spill mitigation and prevention actions and introduced attendees to fuel handling protocols and safety measures at Whiteman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

Airmen, Soldiers and contractors reviewed basic oil and fuel spill response procedures with training materials provided by the Defense Logistics Agency at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, July 21, 2020. The annual, two-day course introduced service members and support personnel to petroleum, oil and lubricant spill prevention, mitigation and response procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

Airmen, Soldiers and contractors reviewed basic oil and fuel spill response procedures with training materials provided by the Defense Logistics Agency at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, July 21, 2020. The annual, two-day course introduced service members and support personnel to petroleum, oil and lubricant spill prevention, mitigation and response procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

Fuel is the lifeblood of the mission; powering vehicles, ground equipment and aircraft alike.

When petroleum fuel spills on the ground, however, these hazardous materials directly threaten ground water and the environment at large.

To better prepare for emergencies, members of the 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron and the U.S. Army’s 1-135th Assault Helicopter Battalion participated in a Defense Logistics Agency - Energy fuel spill exercise, July 21-22.

DLA Energy provides fuels support services to military units and installations and offers the recurring training necessary to prevent and react to small and large accidents associated with fuel transport, storage and transfer. The training reviewed federal and local regulations and included in-depth review of real-world video and witness reports of fuel and oil spill accidents and near misses that caused serious damage and placed lives at risk.

The exercise started with a tabletop review of possible emergency scenarios at Whiteman Air Force Base and responses to a potential fuel spill on base. The theory was then followed with an in-person visit to a government vehicle fuel station where participants applied plans and theory to real-world conditions during a simulated scenario discussion.

Together with local fuels technicians and emergency response personnel, Airmen and Soldiers discussed precautionary measures, how to stop spreading fuel leaks from entering into drains and the environment, prevent fire hazards and how a significant spill of fuel could be handled safely and expediently.

“The training is extremely important for the emergency response aspect of the job, which we don’t deal with on a day-to-day basis,” said Master Sgt. Brad Olsen, a 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels information service center section chief and training participant. “We focus on the operational side of getting the mission done, but it is a good reminder how we respond together as a base-wide team during emergencies and accidents, should they occur. This training was a great opportunity to learn more about all the different agencies involved.”

The training included representatives from Whiteman AFB fire and emergency services and contract partners who stand ready to support and mitigate large-scale spills and provided crucial perspective on available resources.

“We practice and go through these scenarios now so that in the event an accident happens, we don’t scratch our heads, wondering what we’re doing,” said Robert Bryant, the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures program manager. “We try to bring all involved agencies together for the discussions. It’s all about building muscle memory.”

Practicing cooperation between agencies is the most effective during low-stress exercises and tabletop-discussions, Bryant said, allowing members to talk through problems and concerns under the guidance of an experienced instructor and without the stress of a real-world emergency.

“We can put faces and names to positions and functional capabilities, which is essential during an emergency,” he said. “This also helped us review our contingency plans to ensure that our planned response closely matches real-world conditions here at Whiteman AFB.”

Throwing its shadow behind the students during the hands-on class was Whiteman AFB’s water tower -- a crucial reminder of why spills can be so dangerous.

“We focused especially on initial containment of a spill because time is of the essence during a real spill,” Bryant said. “The goal is to protect storm water drainage, keep pollutants from reaching the waste water plant and the environment at large -- so we’re not inadvertently hurting fish and wildlife and damage what precious resources we have left. Exercises and training like this keeps us all prepared and ready.”