By Tech. Sgt. Jared Marquis
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
THULE AIR BASE, Greenland — Logistics anywhere in the Air Force is all about planning. Making sure everyone has the supplies necessary to complete the mission. But what if the time frame for getting the majority of supplies is severely limited?
The Airmen at the Top of the World know exactly how that feels. With only a three month window to receive the majority of the supplies they will need to survive the long winter, the logistics Airmen at Thule Air Base, Greenland, work to ensure the Air Force’s most remote base has everything it needs.
The busy season starts around the end of June each year, said 1st Lt. Douglas Ruark, logistics flight commander. That is when the port opens and ships start arriving.
The base receives, on average, a ship a week until the port closes in September, and then they are completely dependent on airlift until the port reopens in June.
Ships from Canada, Denmark and the U.S. deliver the much needed goods.
Not everyone in the Air Force gets to run a sea port and Ruark said it is a very unique experience.
“It’s a very different aspect of Air Force logistics,” he said. “There are not many places in the Air Force where you run a port. That’s also compounded by the timing. The ships come in a couple months out of the year and you have to plan ahead. Anything you need, it’s got to come on the ship because airlift is so expensive.”
While some items still come by air, like food and household goods, the ships are the base’s chance to get big items or heavy shipments to sustain the work done at Thule through construction season and the long winter, approximately 90 percent of their yearly supplies, he said.
Fuel is one of those needs, said Master Sgt. James Poulos, logistics flight superintendent and fuels coordinator.
Everything here runs on JP-8 aircraft fuel, said Poulos. That includes the vehicles and power plant.
To keep their tanks full, Poulos said they usually get a barge every year. To ensure they don’t run out, they typically keep a three-year supply on hand, but the barge helps keeps their supply full in the event they miss a ship.
Flexibility is key, Ruark said. Nearly every ship or aircraft this summer has been either early or late.
In addition to planning for shipments and running the port, manning can be a challenge for the flight.
One of the biggest challenges with the Thule mission is the amount of logistics Airmen to accomplish it.
“In most logistics squadrons, you have 200 people,” said Poulos. “Here, all our positions are one deep. So, we all need to have an understanding of each job so we can backfill that position when a person goes on leave.”
Through that teamwork and planning, the logistics flight here ensures they take full advantage of their port window. Knowing that if they don’t, they will either have to coordinate the more costly airlift, or wait for the next ship in June.
(Editor’s note: This story is part 1 of a 4 part series about the life at the Top of the World: Thule Air Base, Greenland.)