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Retiring fuels specialists’ lives intertwine

  • Published
  • By Lois Walsh
  • 96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
When Scott Kastner was 21 years old, his father told him to either do something with his life or move out of the house.

Scott chose the former and said yes when the recruiter called his home in Gary, Ind. He joined the Air Force, and in October 1984, graduated technical school as a fuels specialist.

About the same time, a civilian at Griffiss AFB, N.Y., John Gallucci, drove fuel trucks for a living. His responsibilities included training new Airmen to handle the R9, a 5,000 gallon fuel truck. One of the hundreds of new Airmen he trained during his career was Airman Basic Kastner.

Twenty-three years later, Senior Master Sergeant Kastner, superintendent of the 96th Logistic Readiness Squadron's Fuels Flight and Mr. Gallucci, the squadron's fuels distribution bulk storage systems manager, ended their fuel duties. They retired in December after making one last fuel run together, doing what they do best; taking care of the aircraft on Eglin's flight line.

Both reminisced about their time spent together and their last days with their friend. Mr. Gallucci, who retired with 33 years of federal service, remembered their first training run together.

"When Scott got there, he was assigned to me," Mr. Gallucci said. "My job was to teach him everything he knows today."

"I was scared to death of him," Sergeant Kastner said. "He was very stern; I was sure he hated me."

Sergeant Kastner and Mr. Gallucci were stationed together for nine years at Griffiss AFB. Then, with the base scheduled to close, then Staff Sgt. Kastner transferred to Eglin AFB. Mr. Gallucci followed two weeks later. He continued to train people as the lead civilian in fuels bulk storage. He was the only civilian trainer here, teaching the other supervisors to receive and transfer fuel off the barges that arrive in Eglin's waterways.

The duo spent more than three years together here before Sergeant Kastner left for another assignment. He returned to Eglin AFB in 2005, just in time for the two friends to complete their careers together.

"I think it's pretty crazy that we both retired together; it seems like yesterday that I met him," Mr. Gallucci said.

Sergeant Kastner and Mr. Gallucci hope that the Air Force's plan to contract out bulk storage is successful and both can work together again in early 2008. They are not ready to unwind the lives that have been intertwined personally and professionally for more than two decades. Both are quick to point out there were no special favors because of their friendship. But neither will deny that they've been there for each other over the years.

"In 1995 when my wife passed away, Scott went to New York with me," Mr. Gallucci said. "He didn't have to do that, but he did. We're very close friends."

Even in close friendship, there are moments; however, the men agree it's been a good life and "both of us are going out on top."

"It breaks my heart to leave, but it's time to go," Mr. Gallucci said.

Sergeant Kastner's father passed away the year after he enlisted. Still, he hopes his dad would be proud of the son he almost kicked out of the house a lifetime ago.

"I think he looks down and knows I made the right decision," Sergeant Kastner said. "He's probably thinking he can't believe I made it 23 years."