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Fuel to Fight

Photo of airman working on fuel tank

U.S. Senior Airman Jacqueline Wilson, 20th Component Maintenance Squadron tank farm aircraft fuel systems journeyman, performs maintenance on an external fuel tank at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, July 16, 2021. Tank farm Airmen manage and maintain 264 external fuel tanks that go on F-16 Vipers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destani K. Matheny)

Photo of airman working on external fuel tank

U.S. Senior Airman Jacqueline Wilson, 20th Component Maintenance Squadron tank farm aircraft fuel systems journeyman, performs maintenance on an external fuel tank at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, July 16, 2021. Tank farm Airmen manage and maintain 264 external fuel tanks that go on F-16 Vipers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destani K. Matheny)

Photo of airman working on external fuel tank

U.S. Airman 1st Class Aaron Morgan, 20th Component Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems apprentice, performs maintenance on an external fuel tank at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, July 16, 2021. Tank farm Airmen manage and maintain 264 external fuel tanks that go on F-16 Vipers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destani K. Matheny)

Group photo of Airmen

Airmen assigned to the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron tank farm stand for a photo at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, July 16, 2021. Tank farm Airmen manage and maintain 264 external fuel tanks that go on F-16 Vipers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destani K. Matheny)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- The sound of freedom requires interconnecting Airmen, equipment and logistics to continue flying day-in and day-out. Out of all the pieces to the puzzle that is the 20th Fighter Wing mission, one of the most vital things needed to fly and fight, is fuel.

Airmen assigned to the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron tank farm perform specialized maintenance that ensure the safety and operability of fuel tanks.

“We maintain all 264 external fuel tanks that go on the F-16,” said Senior Airman Jacqueline Wilson, 20th CMS aircraft fuel systems journeyman. “When pilots are flying, the external fuel tanks give them extra fuel so they can fly longer and do extra training. We want to give them every opportunity to get the mission done and still have enough fuel to make it back safely.”

There is between one and three fuel tanks that go on one F-16 Viper during a sortie.

“The pilots fly with fuel during training missions at home station so they get used to having that accessibility,” said Wilson. “That way when they are deployed downrange, they already know exactly how much they can carry and how to use it in an emergency.”

The tank farm Airmen have not only been consistently providing mission essential equipment and fuels, they also have been redesigning the tank farm infrastructure to better withstand potential hazardous weather, such as seasonal hurricanes.

“We are in the process of installing anchors and straps for the tanks,” said Senior Airman Braydon Teeples, 20th CMS aircraft fuel systems journeyman. “Before we had them, if a hurricane was inbound we had to transfer all of our tanks manually to different hangars, which could take up to 72 hours. Being able to strap them down saves us time, manpower and resources. This also avoided us looking at alternate tank storage means, which saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Whether they fix aircraft, fly aircraft or support and enable those who fix or fly aircraft, the 20th Fighter Wing would not be able to accomplish its mission without every Airman doing their part to ensure the ability to protect and defend in a moment’s notice.