Bakersfield fuel tank manufacturer Bryant Fuel Systems LLC was a 3-year-old startup with few sales under its belt when, in late 1991, it got its first big chance to dazzle U.S. Army brass.

It was a hit. Word quickly got around military circles that the above-ground fuel tank Bryant built for Fort Irwin National Training Center near Barstow had slashed the amount of time it took to refuel combat aircraft. Unlike competing tanks, this one could fill up military helicopters while they were still running.

Five months later, the Army solicited bids for more than 20 tanks with specifications resembling Bryant’s system to equip its helicopter training base at Fort Rucker, Ala. Half a dozen bids came in but no purchase contract was issued.

In the quarter century that followed, Bryant went through its share of ups and downs, changing hands and gradually building up commercial and government clientele. Then, in 2018 — finally — the Army announced Fort Rucker was in need of 12 above-ground fuel tanks much like the one Bryant had demonstrated all those years before.

Bryant’s bid ended up prevailing in what the company views as not only vindication for a plucky little company that could, but also a breakthrough sale that may well lead to bigger and better things.

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