POL Pride

Airman Zachary LeBoeuf and Airman Ashley Watts stand proudly at the Master Sgt. Randy J. Gillespie Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants Memorial, June 13, 2017. POL Airmen in Training begin every morning outside the schoolhouse at this memorial to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Joseph Speirs)

Airman Zachary LeBoeuf and Airman Ashley Watts stand proudly at the Master Sgt. Randy J. Gillespie Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants Memorial, June 13, 2017. POL Airmen in Training begin every morning outside the schoolhouse at this memorial to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Joseph Speirs)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The 82nd Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, is responsible for training nearly 45 percent of the entire Air Force. With approximately 60,000 graduates produced every year, standing out among the crowd is undoubtedly challenging.

Still, the 364th Training Squadron’s Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants schoolhouse has a reputation for cranking out top-notch Airmen.

“We don’t force the POL culture on these Airmen,” said Tech. Sgt. Charles Wathen, POL apprentice course instructor. “We lead by example, show them the way, and they want to become a part of it.”

If it rolls, moves, launches or flies, POL is responsible for making it go. As an integral part of the Air Force, they know it’s their fuel that makes the mission happen.

A POL troop also knows that being an Airman is a 24/7 job. The schoolhouse has gone an impressive 490 consecutive days without an alcohol related incident. Within that time span, nearly 850 Airmen have graduated from the course.

“We take pride in that number,” said Airman Ashley Watts, POL apprentice course student. “It shows me that this schoolhouse and all the classes that came before us have the morale and discipline to not abuse substances.”

These Airmen choose to internalize the Air Force core values not only to uphold the standards set by their instructors but to uphold the standards which they set for themselves and their wingmen.

“No one wants to let each other down,” said Airman Zachary LeBoeuf, POL apprentice course student. “It’s all about teamwork.”

Airmen come to the schoolhouse directly from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. The majority of the trainees have no experience in the career field. Instructors are charged with the task of training and instilling the POL pride in only 6 weeks.

“Our instructors take great pride in what we do,” said Wathen. “We love our job, we love our career field and there’s no better way to represent that than by instructing young Airmen and passing on our knowledge.”

After graduating from the course, POL Airmen move to their first assignment and continue with on-the-job training.

Although their training at Sheppard is short, Airmen carry their experiences and knowledge with them long after their time at the schoolhouse.

“I take pride in my job and our reputation,” said Watts. “I spend time every night to make sure I’m squared away because I want to uphold the standard of my career field.”

Through extensive dress and appearance checks, a challenging workload, mentorship and positive recognition, instructors at the 364th TRS POL schoolhouse consistently enforce the standard for the next generation of Airmen.

“On the outside, people may think POL is strict but it’s just highly disciplined,” said LeBoeuf. “One day no one will be there to hold our hand and we’ll have to maintain our integrity and stay truly disciplined on our own.”

When the students reach 500 days without an alcohol related incident, the instructors plan to have a cookout for the entire schoolhouse to celebrate their accomplishment.