By Carol Williams, Office of Corporate Communications, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville
I did this, and I continue to do this proudly, for my nieces and nephews back home,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) 3rd Class Brandon Dericho, as he jumped into a towering yellow fuel truck to deliver 1,500 pounds of jet fuel to a waiting helicopter in Mayport, Florida. “The Navy has been very good to me – I’ve purchased a home, I’m able to provide for my wife and my son, and I know that the work I do every day has a purpose.” Dericho is a native of the Pine Hills neighborhood in Orlando, Florida, where his mom and dad worked and lived while raising him, along with his older brother and sister, for nearly four decades. The first in his family to join the military, he didn’t tell his parents about his plans until the night before he shipped out to Great Lakes, Illinois, for recruit training.
“I didn’t want my mom to be upset that I was leaving,” he said. “I was working as a firefighter and as a hazardous material (HAZMAT) technician, but I wanted to achieve more and be a role model for the younger generation in my family. I chose the aviation boatswain’s mate (fuels) (ABF) rate because the recruiter told me it was the closest rate to firefighting. I haven’t done much firefighting, but I chose the best rate in the Navy.”
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ABF3 Dericho left, signals to an aircraft maintainer while delivering fuel. –photo by Carol Williams
In 2013, Dericho arrived at USS Bataan (LHD 5) in Norfolk, Virginia, as a brand new seaman and eager to learn. He quickly earned critical qualifications, including enlisted air and surface warfare pins, to support his shipboard division in providing fuel for a variety of aircraft, and completing two deployments to U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation. In September 2018, Dericho transferred to shore duty at NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Jacksonville, where he is a member of the fuels division for Naval Station Mayport.
In his daily duties, he provides fuel to three helicopter squadrons to support their mission requirements, as well as transient military aircraft that stop in Mayport for refueling. Last year, the fuels division team delivered more than 11.4 million pounds of fuel to various rotary and fixed-wing aircraft – an average in excess of 31,000 pounds per day.
Petty officer Dericho is quick to highlight the success of the team. “I’m the new guy here – I come to work each day ready to show them what I can do and how I can contribute to the team,” he said while refueling a helicopter during a “cold pump,” a refueling evolution in which the helicopter is not energized or turning rotors.
“The support I’ve received from this command has been incredible. I enjoy the job because I can see the impact we’re making on the mission every day. Without us, the birds don’t get off the ground.”
Mission readiness is a key initiative for the most-senior levels of Navy leadership, emphasizing the importance of leveraging assets and personnel to accomplish the mission in the most effective way possible. Sailors like Dericho maintain high operational tempo on ships, where they don purple helmets (‘cranials’) and vests and are affectionately known simply as “grapes.” Supporting the rigorous flight schedule, both at sea and ashore, is critical for ensuring the aircraft and pilots can carry out their duties safely, which is of paramount importance.
“Every step of the refueling process is completed with safety at the forefront,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) Senior Chief Petty Officer Keith Johnson, the senior enlisted leader for the division. “We’re working with highly flammable substances, dangerous heavy machinery, and HAZMAT. We must get it right, each and every time, to ensure the men and women in the aircraft have what they need to get the job done.”
NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville provides fueling support in 18 locations throughout the Southeastern United States, from Florida to Texas. Sailors like petty officer Dericho are responsible for ensuring proper fuel integrity, sanitation and safety practices are employed while delivering fuel to waiting military aircraft, often with just a moment’s notice.
“A good ABF will be willing to learn from others. The Navy has been full of challenges and triumphs so far. The best advice I’ve ever received is to stay humble, and learn all that I can. That’s my goal when I come to work each day.”
When not in uniform, Dericho spends time with his wife and young son, plays football and basketball, and is an avid gamer who regularly competes in tournaments to showcase his skills. He’s also enrolled in the local community college, where he hopes to earn a degree in education, with plans to become a middle or high school teacher after completing his Navy career.